Lately, instead of writing recipes, I’ve been putting pen to paper to write about food. It’s a slight change of focus, but one I’m hoping to embrace and run with. Food and cooking have always been a somewhat unhealthy obsession of mine, so why not take it up a notch? Honestly, it’s kind of fun to take a step back and reflect on the things that really matter. So as a tribute to the overly contemplative mood I’ve been in, I decided to enter the Medium Raw essay challenge put together by one of the bad boys of the culinary world, Anthony Bourdain. I’ve always loved his crude, raw writing style, and even though this entry is not a rant to that effect, it’s my take on what it means to cook well. A bit on the serious side compared to my usual posts, but it was the one thing that really stood out for me. Take a look and let me know what you think. If you like it, vote, vote, and vote some more!
As the chicken bubbled away in cast iron pots over open flames at my grandmother’s funeral, I knew what it meant to cook well. I knew what real grief was, too. The woman who had inspired my love of cooking was gone, and there was only one way to properly honor her—by gathering together to eat. I can still taste the crispy skin on that chicken, perfectly seasoned with salt and a few handfuls of compassion. I may have been out of place in a small European town, but the food made me feel at home. Every morsel was a gift, a reminder of the good in people and their willingness to drop everything for a family in need. Every bite was a tribute to what was lost, but also a celebration of the lives left behind.
Cooking well got me through, and it still does. It’s camaraderie in the best and worst of times, whether it’s between friends sitting side-by-side at a table or just between you and the ingredients at hand. Cooking well is escape. It has the inexplicable ability to transport you and transcend time and place. My grandmother still lives on every time I step foot in the kitchen. The click of the dial as I turn on the stove, the smell of freshly made dough rising on a warm oven, the sizzle of batter flowing onto a hot skillet to make crepes; it all brings her back.
But the food itself is merely the medium. Cooking well is the art. Just like a painter uses colors, a sculptor molds clay or a poet strings together phrases, a cook creates and inspires with food. Love, hate, stress, anger, envy, passion, you can taste them all in a great dish. Cooking well feeds into the emotions that go deep down to our core. It smacks you upside the head, caresses your senses and makes you drool like a schoolboy at recess. It comes from within. Yet it is not reserved for Michelin Stars and James Beard awards. It’s an art of the every day, a way to honor the flavors of our forefathers, feed our families, and cross boarders. It connects us.
Cooking well is a universal language, a primordial need, and a pursuit of the heart. It does not discriminate or ask questions, but it manages to give us purpose and feed us in ways that surpass nourishment. Put simply, cooking well is life. It’s what so many of us live for and what not a single one of us can live without.
Oh, and please ignore the HTML random code at the beginning of the entry. I have no idea how that happened!