Why Do I Cook?

After reading a post from Jenn at JennCuisine, reading numerous posts from Amy at Cooking with Amy, and wading through the comments over at Michael Ruhlman’s blog, I wished to really delve down and think about why I cook, and why food is such a never-ending passion for me. But I wanted to give it more than a quickly-crafted response; I instead mulled over this topic for several days. (I even took notes as thoughts came to me!)

So, why do I cook?

I suppose we can start at the beginning. I mention in my About page that I enjoyed cooking, even as a little girl. I was hungry, I loved to eat, and making things was fun! But truthfully, a lot of things were fun at that age (roller skating, coloring books, catching bugs and placing them in glass jars) that, while still potentially fun, don’t keep my interest. Neither does sewing, or painting, or art – my husband can testify to my countless attempts at picking up a “hobby”. On the other hand, cooking always attracts; it’s a never-ending challenge, a game that can’t be won, but only played again and again, with infinite variations on the theme and outcome. I wonder why. In a lifetime of fleeting hobbies and interests, why has cooking dug its claws in so deeply that I can hardly define myself without referring to the art of food?

I’ve always cooked and experimented to some degree, and always loved watching cooking shows. I fondly remember watching Julia Child, Justin Wilson, and Martin Yan on PBS while growing up. I even participated in a county youth show, winning 2nd place with a sour cream chocolate cake, when I was in high school. Yet I truly feel that the “on” switch was hit around late 2007. It was a difficult time for our family. Our foundation and our lives were deeply shaken. At that time, I started to spend more time in the kitchen. I could make sense of things while cooking. Every time I whip egg whites, they become frothy and stiff. If I heat a pan of oil and then place food in it, that food will sizzle. It was science – and it was something I could understand. Around that same time, I received a wonderful gift from my parents – an amazing set of Mundial knives. Now, I could chop, slice, julienne, and mince with precision and grace. The entire process – prepping, cooking, plating – it all was soothing and relaxing. It was music to my soul; it was therapy. And as I slowly built my skills, the confidence and trust surrounding my life was building as well.

Now, more than 2 years later, I cannot imagine not cooking.

Cooking is still very much therapy for me. When I’m happy, I cook. When I’m sad, I cook. When I need to unwind, you guessed it – I cook. I can allow myself to be creative in the kitchen. I can use my hands. I can build, shape, create, and taste. In my world full of spreadsheets, analysis, rules and regulations, this is a wonderful treasure.

But even beyond the act of cooking, I perceive the world through cuisine. No matter where you are, the act of sharing a meal brings people together. Culture, history, geography – they are all connected and intertwined with food. It’s all at once humbling, welcoming, and eye-opening.

Along that same note, I love the comraderie that food brings. I love to share with others. I express my appreciation for them through cooking and food. I love that I can share a comforting favorite, an exciting new adventure, and a balanced meal with my family and friends. It might seem a bit self-serving, but I do love to experience the pleasure of someone else enjoying my meals. Gluten intolerance has only served to challenge me further in this regard – I now love to share gluten-free foods with those that long for the foods they once loved. I wish to bring those foods to them once again – in an uncompromising, gluten-free form!

Of course, there are benefits to my love for cooking and food. It’s cheaper to cook at home. I can prepare healthier, nourishing meals. Many times, it’s even faster than eating out. As a result of my love for cooking, I’ve learned to cook with the seasons, connecting with my body, its nourishment, and the Earth. I’ve also had the fortune of meeting many wonderful people that share similar passions, both through local farms and through the world of food blogging. I am continually amazed and astounded by the community and friendship. Most importantly, cooking was a catalyst in the ability to strengthen bonds with my family. The passion for food and cooking translated to a passion for life – I felt as though as time passed, I came to understand and appreciate each gift my family has given me. Of course, cooking wasn’t the sole reason for the growth and happiness that eminates from our home now, but for me, it definitely played a part. I couldn’t be more at peace with life and family, or more thankful for the gifts I’ve received. 

So why do I cook? Cooking is my outlet; my lifeline. I will never stop exploring, and I will never stop learning. I connect with my family, I find spirituality, and I connect with the world.

Through cooking, I find myself.


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28 responses to “Why Do I Cook?

  1. I loved this post, Alta. I could definitely feel your passion for cooking in your words. I love the challenge aspect of cooking, too, and exploring the science. Sometimes I realize how much I’ve learned about how a certain ingredient is going to react to certain cooking methods or with other ingredients, and it fuels me to explore more. I’m a scientist by day, too, but it’s always better when I can eat the end result 🙂

  2. Excellent post, Alta. Although we all come to cooking at different times, for different reasons, it makes us better people. Thanks for sharing. Like many others, I also responded to Ruhlman in my post, Why I Cook.

  3. Alta, you’ve written it well. I don’t think I could add anything else because I cook the same reason that you do. My dad loves to cook as well and he can’t live without it. Cooking is an outlet for me too even if I find it too lazy to cook in some days. But the end result is satisfying and rewarding. Thanks for your insights.

  4. Wonderful words. Thanks for sharing!

  5. You’ve made me stop and think about why I enjoy cooking so much. You can’t ask for much more from a post then having the reader think about their own situation. I think everyone that enjoys cooking should take a moment and reflect why they love it. Well done.

  6. Beautiful, Alta – those of us who enjoy arts and sciences share a bond – even if the arts and sciences we love are in different realms. Thank you for being a fellow sojourner. Women of passion have an indelible impact on their worlds. Blessings, Cindy

  7. What a fantastic post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this with us!

  8. Goosebumps. That’s what happened three times while reading this post. You have put into words exactly what I try to convey to people when they want to know why I love this so much. Thank you for your verbal perfection and brilliant articulation.

    I’ve nominated you for an award on my blog. Now I’d like to give you two 🙂
    Hope you can swing by SoCal and check it out.

    Thanks and have a great day,
    -Laura 🙂

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  10. Nice. Lovely post. I’ve been cooking since I was young, But I love to cook. I love being in the kitchen. I find it very relaxing. It actually helps me when I do some writing.

  11. great post! i agree with you… cooking is so therapeutic! when i’m not cooking, i’m watching The Food Network to get ideas on what to cook. it’s all a part of our lives and we embrace food and cooking. it’s all about being creative, experimental, and improving on our skills. and of course, we are rewarded by getting to eat like queens!

  12. thedallasceliac

    Beautifully written!

  13. Great post. A chef who I take classes from recently (finally!) started a blog, while she’s still working on pictures and things, I think especially her first few posts about why she became a chef are awesome. Check out her blog, if you’d like, she’s looking for readers and since she’s a professionally trained chef, she knows her stuff. She’s just getting started with blogging, but I can vouch for her fabulous recipes. (I even get to go to one of her classes tonight.)
    Anyway, your post reminded me of some of her recent posts, if you’re interested. I think her blog is a fabulous addition to anyone really serious about cooking/baking, if even just in your own home.
    Her name is Paige and her blog is http://www.acookinglifeblog.blogspot.com

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  15. What a thoughtful post. I suppose cooking for me is about the love of people and sharing a meal with those I love. And it gives me a buzz to make something that tastes good that is good for you.

  16. What a fabulous post! My family thinks I’m crazy about how much I truly love to cook. My favorite moment at the table, any dining table, is when there are those completely silent moments. No matter how large the number of dinners is. The moment when they are lost in the flavors, enjoying them, reveling in them. That is the greatest compliment. My second favorite is finding that all the bread on the table is left untouch. (sigh) Those are the best rewards and it makes it all worthwhile knowing your creations are appreciated and savored. ~LeslieMichele

  17. beautiful post Alta, I’m passionate about cooking too and I can relate to most of what you’ve written…cheers to all of us who have passion for cooking!! 🙂

  18. speech less realy one of the best post!
    you rock!

  19. I often find myself feeling sorry for people who view cooking as a dreary, time-consuming chore undertaken just to satisfy a basic human need. They are missing so much! Cooking can be one of the most deeply creative activities of all, and it brings more joy into your life (and the lives of others) if you approach it that way. Many thanks for this thought-provoking post.

  20. Superb sentiments……………….all of which I agree with. An outlet, something that sets the creative juices flowing…………..superbwriting!

  21. Thank you for sharing–this is such a great post! I love all of us around the globe coming together due to our passion for food. I am currently getting an MS in Nutrition, but I would get an MS in Food if it was possible!

  22. This is a really lovely post, and it rings completely true.

  23. You and I think alike. Other hobbies have come and gone for me, but when it really came down to it, I knew I had to focus on cooking. I also love the friendships that have sprung from cooking – talking about food never gets old. Well-written post!

  24. There’s nothing better than having a “never-ending passion” for something. Cooking holds that special place in my heart as well. I love the fact that culinary culture, cooking and enjoying food with family and friends is making a comeback. I loved this blog post of yours! Good one.

  25. lo

    Lovely post! The fact that you can’t imagine yourself NOT cooking is a sign that it’s become a part of you. That’s what makes passion so incredible — it embodies everything that you are and allows it to shine. Keep on keeping on… we love it!

  26. I think you worded it perfectly when you said that cooking is therapy. I’m not sure that it’s any cheaper than visiting a shrink, but I am always blessed with peace of mind when I spend a day in the kitchen cooking for my loved ones.

  27. Alta,
    Such a nice job with this post; your words capture a personal a look at who you are and why you do what you do.
    You are in good company.

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