Feel free to fill in the blanks in the topic open house post here.kaberett
's suggestion was to talk about my "relationship with food and cooking and feeding people, and what you aim for when you cook and why (especially the contextual variations!)"
This one is both easy and difficult, easy because it's one of the key relationships in my life and difficult because of kaberett
's high bar for how they write, and the request for contextual variations.
Cooking is arguably my most central pleasure in life. I like food and eat plenty, and plenty of variety, but eating doesn't give me the pleasure that cooking does; it's over too soon and I'm often thinking as much about my companions, the conversation, or whatever else is on my mind, as noticing my taste buds.
Cooking, on the other hand, takes a good deal of my attention even when I'm talking to other people or thinking about other things. It also uses all my senses, which eating generally doesn't do anywhere near as much. I'm not the kind of cook-with-my-ears cook that kaberett
described in a recent post, but I do like the sounds of chopping and bubbling and sizzling, the sights of the ingredients and how they change as they are cooked or marinated, the feel of various fresh good things under my hands and the knife, and nothing is better than how the kitchen smells when something is just about ready to eat.
I've been a decent cook for as long as I can remember, but in the last ten years or so I've gotten a lot more active about it. Those are the years in which pokershaman
and I became first regular farmers' market shoppers and then CSA (community-supported agriculture) participants, which has been one impulse to better cooking. Also, those are the years in which he became an artisan breadbaker and a chocolatier and, while neither of those two things especially attract me, I don't like being "oh, and she cooked dinner too" while everyone is raving about the bread and the chocolate. So I stepped up my game. Also, hanging out with pantryslut
and their cookbook collection (and eating their cooking on a regular basis) is another factor. Also, both watching our carbs.
So I cook more, and try to vary it more. I use more spices and more recipes (I've always been, and still am, much more of a "recipe cook" than an improviser). I think about what works and what doesn't, and try variations and repeat things differently. I cook dinner almost every night that we're home, and it's often the highlight of my day.
Feeding people is where the deepest pleasure, and the contextual variations, come in. I absolutely love feeding people, especially people who are hungry not just for food but for other kinds of nurturing. seyewailo
, who doesn't post around here any more, wrote something wonderful some years back about kissing the vegetables when she makes soup for sick friends. I'm too self-conscious to actually
do that, but I think about it all the time.</div>serene
and I share an uncommon fondness for cooking for people with food limitations, though she is more creative about it than I am. I especially like being able to put a dinner on the table for someone who is used (for whatever allergic or other reasons) to having to be super-careful about what they can taste, and say "It's all safe for you" with confidence. I love remembering who can and can't eat what. as well as what people like and don't like (a trick my mother did instinctively and I do by having trained myself).
The contextual variations, I think, have to do with what the meal (or treat) is and who it's for. For pot lucks, I think about what I have in the house, what people seem to eat the most of at pot lucks, what might be a treat. Pot lucks for work are different than pot lucks for parties of friends (I think I'm just more conservative for work pot lucks, but I am a staunch contributor.) For bringing food to houses of trouble or mourning, it's about what would look appetizing to a person who didn't feel like eating, what do I know about these particular people's comfort foods, what would last or could be frozen, what is easy to offer guests if you don't feel like doing a damned thing, but your house is full of guests. For my own dinner table with company (which we often do, but have slacked off on recently), it's what would this person or these people really enjoy (sparked by what I have in the house, which with the CSA means also what's seasonal), what would be special or memorable (sometimes), what would I like to make, what do I want to remember having fed them. Because we eat in our kitchen, it's less about what can I make in advance, though that can be a factor. Recently, we've been fed two dinners by an extraordinary
cook, and we're both thinking about "could we make a dinner of that quality? what would we have to change and think about?"
That's a start, anyway. Come for dinner and help me figure out more about this (this is a serious offer if you're in or come visit the Bay Area). And if anyone has a source of good gankable food icons, I would love that too.