Catching Up – Why I Cook

Now that I’m back in NYC and have gotten back into my routine at work, I thought I’d catch up a little bit on this blog as well.

I’ve done a small amount of clean-up editing to the four Mountain Time posts from last week (added links, etc.), and am following along with my posted “itinerary” . Today is Media Review day, so I want to point out a great post on Hungry Sofia about one of my favorite treats from the Philippines, ube ice cream. The post includes a recipe that I adapted for the class I taught last year on Filippino cooking. It brough back great memories and provided inspiration to get back in a kitchen with my friends, old and new, as soon as possible!

On that note, I will finally attempt a belated response to a challenge posted last month by Michael Ruhlman asking readers why they cook.

My favorite response to the universal, yet deeply personal question “Why do you cook?” comes from Kathryn McGowan of Comestibles. Her description of cooking as a personal connection to history and culture brought up so many of the same reasons I choose to cook – though she wrote them more eloquently than I would have!

I’ll begin with a confession – I don’t cook very much anymore. There are two main reasons for this; the first is that I don’t have to (that sounds worse than it is). I work at a culinary school where other people feed me, non-stop, all day. The rest of my meals are usually eaten in restaurants for both business and personal reasons (yet always for enjoyment). The second reason is much more personal. My lifestyle has changed a great deal over the past 10 years; I no longer have the extensive circle of hungry friends and family visiting my home on a regular basis. Now, I visit them and they cook for me (and I’m extremely grateful for all the delicious meals I’ve enjoyed over these years!).

So, when do I cook? Sometimes it is for professional reasons (cooking for special events is my favorite part of my job), the rest of the time it is for my family (and a few choice friends). Professionally, I prepare foods that are quite simple if you have the proper equipment and products. The focus is on layering flavors and textures to develop “deliciousness” (Dave Arnold’s word), then designing a presentation that is clean, visually stimulating and easy to enjoy. The menu choices are driven by theme, season, and the style that represents the image we have developed.

Personally, I maintain the focus on layering flavors and textures, however my presentation is less design-oriented. More importantly, my personal style of cooking is reflective of my fascination with cultural history and the role food plays in experiencing the heart of a culture. Eating and cooking are things shared by all. To learn to prepare the foods of another culture (or another era) is to learn something about how they live, what they value, and how they nurture.

I cook because I want to learn about others – past, present and future. I cook because it teaches me more about myself and the people I love. I cook because I believe that knowing such intimate habits of other cultures is the road to living peacefully in this ever-shrinking world.

4 thoughts on “Catching Up – Why I Cook

  1. Hi Annette, thanks so much for your compliment on my writing. Are you at the International Culinary Center? I took Alan Richman’s food journalism class there, and highly recommend it. It sounds like you and I live in this great city for some of the same reasons.

    1. Hi Kathryn! Thank you for reading. Yes, I’m at the International Culinary Center. Alan Richman is an amazing instructor, so glad you enjoyed his class! We are quite fortunate to live in this treasure trove of culinary experinces. Hope to meet you someday – maybe at a CHNY event?

      1. Are you a member of CHNY? Our next event is March 23 at the Museum of Chinese in America. It’s a panel about what Chinese food is like in America today and how it compares to what Chinese-Americans cook at home, etc. Hope to see you there.

  2. I was a memeber for a while, then I stopped getting any correspondence from them – I wasn’t even aware that my membership expired. Need to rejoin – I miss it! I’d really like to attend that event, it sounds right up my alley, but I have my writing group that night. I’ll see how the two fit together. If not this time, soon!

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