Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Passion of the Kitchen

Recently I watched Julie and Julia, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name describing one woman’s goal of cooking all of Julia Childs’ recipes from her original cookbook in the span of a year. As much as I can empathize with Julie’s desire, if the scenes detailing Julia’s rise to kitchen stardom had not been included I would have turned the movie off in the first thirty minutes. Despite the unlikability of the focal character, her desire to do something daring in the kitchen struck a chord in me.

Each week,  I spend one quarter of my weekend making my food for the coming week as I rarely have time each evening to cook food from scratch. After gaining nearly 20 pounds from eating out multiple times a week during my last round of graduate school, I determined to never do that again, and cooking and pre-packing my meals for the coming week not only helped me lose those twenty pounds, but keep them off. Nevertheless, the idea of cooking, sometimes multiple, new recipes each evening seemed especially fascinating to me as someone who goes to the grocery store once (only by necessity twice) a month. I do not do a weekly menu; I do a monthly one.

Still, as a person who LOVES to cook and to teach others to cook in the way I learned from my grandmother and mother (smell is EVERYTHING), the idea of doing something challenging such as cooking a new recipe (the steps and ingredients of which I normally take as suggestions rather than directions) each night absolutely fascinated me. I have a wide variety of cookbooks ranging from the 75th Anniversary Edition Joy of Cooking to collections of recipes from various churches and high school classes. My favorites are those collections of recipes real people use on a regular basis. I know they are good because people shared them when they had the opportunity to give the one recipe they knew was good.

Discussing the value of taking on such a challenge, my roommate and I brought up a number of ways such a challenge could be taken and what ways we would do it differently. While the idea caused me to reflect on what kind of cooking challenge I would undertake. Living in Austin, Texas is vastly different than a borough of New York. I drive past a dozen grocery stores each day, but none of them are an easy access off and on the interstate routes I travel. That is why I only go to the store once or twice a month. If I lived in NYC, based on what I have seen in the apartments of the friends I have visited there, I would have to shop and cook each day; that is not my reality.

In the week that followed, the more I reflected on the idea of some kind of cooking challenge the more I realized I do not need a challenge to demonstrate my passion in the kitchen. My weekly meals and the other meals I prepare for friends from time to time all come from the passionate cook within. It exists in every dish I make and that is what I want to sustain.
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