Thursday, October 22, 2009

More than a Hobby

I enjoy food. I enjoy it way too much and it worries me a little bit that many of my childhood memories are centered on what I was eating. The only thing I remember about being in pre-school is the graham crackers and that when we would sing 'The Farmer in the Dell' and the cheese would always have to stand alone. Sometimes Brandon will bring up an event that we went to in the past and I will respond with something like, "Is that where we had that amazing spinach dip?" I usually can't recall who we talked to, but I have a detailed menu of the whole night stored in my brain. I know exactly what foods go with specific holidays or seasons and I have great memories of having delicious meals as a child and as an adult.
When I was 20 I went on a road trip that lasted over a month. I have a lot of memories about all the different places that we went, but the most vivid memory of all was the night I returned home. It was cold and dark and I was so hungry and when I walked in the kitchen was warm and smelled like spaghetti. It was like heaven.
It is no wonder that I spend a large part of my day playing with food. I check out the recipe books at the library that have full page photos of each dish and look through them over and over. I watch cooking shows, and read cooking blogs.
Cooking is a tricky hobby, especially for those of us who have a tendency to overeat. Too often I feel like I'm wasting time and wish that my guilty pleasure was rock climbing, playing soccer, or something else equally cool.
Preparing food just seems so house-wifey, old fashioned, and really un-hip.

I felt a little better after reading an article in the New York Times, "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch" by Michael Pollan (who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food...Oh, by the way, I also like to read non-cookbooks that are related to food). He talks about how many Americans watch more cooking on T.V. than they actually do themselves. He brings up the idea that cooking is one of the things that only humans do. He made me feel that by putting in all those hours at the stove I was joining with generations of people who have lived and enjoyed food for thousands of years.
Then I heard an interview with Ruth Reichl who was the editor of Gourmet magazine. She used to be the food critic for the New York Times but gave up the job because she wanted to be able to cook dinner for her family. I couldn't believe that a woman with such a great gig would make that kind of sacrifice. Think about it...her job was to go to all the best restaurants in New York and get paid to eat.
But she said that those hours she spent in her own home preparing food for the people she loved was the best time of her life.
It helped me feel validated about the time that I spend chopping and mixing in my kitchen. I can let myself enjoy the smell of the ingredients and the feel of the heat from the oven and marvel at the way flavors can combine with texture in innumerable ways.
Even in our society of fast food and restaurants we still hold home cooking on a special pedestal. It represents peace, comfort, family and love. I guess it is because we know that if the food was cooked at home it was done by someone we love and who loves us.
I guess it's a pretty hip hobby after all.


Chels said...

I totally agree. Ty and I love to cook, especially together. We have big plans for making it a family event with our little ones (well, when our little one has enough muscle control to at least hold a spoon). I think dinner time is the best time of the day when everyone is gathered together for a good meal.

autumn said...

you make me want to make something right. now.