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Overcoming Personal Barriers


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I grew up with a mom who loved to cook and had a big family to cook for. But I really learned to cook and love cooking from my grandma; a Kansas girl, for whom cooking was a labor of love for the family and extended family and friends. She taught me to love everything about food....from growing it to canning it for future use; to entertaining and menu planning. The best way to fry chicken and how to make Parker House rolls for Sunday dinners. I love the color and the texture of food and the way it smells when it's raw. I love to see the transformation over and over again in so many incarnations of the most common ingredients. And I love to see the way it makes other people feel. I never am offended if someone doesn't like what I"ve cooked ...I might be a little disappointed because the reason I cook is really to bring pleasure to other people, but it's not an ego thing for me. I love people who love to cook too because I think it brings people together in a sensual way that is more discreet than sex and sometimes more satisfying (I didn't say ALL the time :rolleyes: ). It's a way to share with friends and a way to hand something from one generation to another. I only wish I had paid better attention when I was younger ~ to me, cooking is a sensual, fulfilling delight and always entertaining.It's all about the love. Fast food is so boring to me. :blink:

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So let me ask everyone this. When other people react with (fill in the blank -- awe, shock, disgust) that you spend time cooking at home at all), how do you react? When people raise the questions of time, money, skill, what do you say?

Everyone has passions, some secret, some not so. To criticize any seems shallow to me.

The only person to ever raise the questions you offer up has been my father, with his eyes rolling high, wondering just why in the hell his oldest son is wasting time doing that in the kitchen when the oil needs changing (car, not deep-fryer :biggrin: ), or the garden needs tending. You can buy good mustard, don't make your own, and you don't really need to eat food any more complicated than good fried catfish and okra, he offers up. This is when I remind him that he smokes his brisket and tends that fire for ten or twelve or fourteen hours -- which I believe he sees more as something that one "just does", rather than dare admit to the craft of it.

To forestall some comment and ridicule from close friends, I do tend to hide some of the extremes of my fanaticism. Making my own ingredients? Well, I think I'll just keep that to myself. The finished dishes cooked with it, however, that gets shared and shared again.

As for what drives the urge, the passion (the original question, I believe), it's hard to define. Preparing food, much like playing music or printing pictures or baking bread or even writing, brings me to a zone that I can't imagine living outside of. It's an area where I don't feel terribly self-conscious, and don't have to work too hard at (these days) to be successful with, yet challenge and growth remain a daily benefit; I do it for me. Apart from this message board, I don't really talk about it. It's not about external validation, but about the internal; it's about the resting of the soul after the labor in the kitchen and the consumption of the result.

Everyone needs this, whether its food or art or some other craft. To live without seems a waste.

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I love people who love to cook too because I think it brings people together in a sensual way that is more discreet than sex

Ten people around the dining room table is discreet? Your sex life must be, um, distinctive. :laugh:

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Everyone has passions, some secret, some not so...

A beautiful post.

How grand to have so much Poetry & Prose strewn bountifully about on eGullet. :wub:

edited to add quote

Edited by Toliver (log)

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Chiming in a little late here. . .

Why do we assume that everyone should want to cook or like to cook? Do we expect everyone to like sewing, or gardening, or automobile repair? Do we expect everyone to be able to play the piano or the flute?

It's certainly true that eveyone has to eat, but it's never been the case (at least not in the industrialized world) that one has to cook in order to eat. There have been plenty of alternatives that people have turned to since the industrial revolution. The fact is that for many women, cooking was simply another chore to complete, and anything that saved time and effort in the kitchen was embraced wholeheartedly. And it's for us easy to say that they must not have been concerned much with taste, if they so readily embraced convenience food, but it might very well be that the prepared foods really were better than what they cooked themselves.

Because not everyone who cooks is good at it. Right? Look at all the threads about parents (mothers, mostly) who were terrible cooks, or the bad dinners at other people's houses. I once had dinner at a friend's house (I was visiting for a couple of days) who prepared Hamburger Helper, a green salad with bottled dressing and blueberry muffins from a mix. It wasn't very good, but I'm sure it was better than anything she could have made "from scratch."

I think it's interesting to take a look at that other traditional domestic task, sewing, and compare it with cooking. I'm old enough that when I was in junior high school, girls still had to take "home ec," which consisted of cooking and sewing. But even then, for us girls, sewing clothes was definitely optional in a way that cooking was not. It just seems to me that since then, cooking has "caught up" with sewing as an option, not a necessity. Do any of us bemoan the lack of sewing at home? Then why are we so upset at the lack of cooking?

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I love people who love to cook too because I think it brings people together in a sensual way that is more discreet than sex

Ten people around the dining room table is discreet? Your sex life must be, um, distinctive. :laugh:

:laugh: You have no idea :wink:

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I was talking to someone online last night and when I mentioned what I had for dinner, he was like "So elaborate!" (Never mind that last night's dinner was actually fairly simple, as far as I'm concerned. :shock: ) He went on to explain that his dinners consist of something frozen and pre-packaged and popped into a microwave. This same person doesn't much care for tomatoes unless they're smashed into tiny bits and turned into a sauce. Salsa is ok, tomato sauce is ok, but "raw tomatoes have a concentrated flavor that I find just too much to take." Huh? :blink:

I don't think I could ever imagine being like that--now. What's really amazing is that when I was growing up, I thought nothing of Stouffer's boil veggies in a bag, or Shake-N-Bake. :unsure:

Soba

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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  • 2 months later...

Even though this seems to be a dead thread, I’ll add a couple comments because I find it an interesting subject. It seems that I started preparing homemade food a lot when I became real poor. I know this seems like the opposite of what some are saying, that poor people have few choices or are uninformed, etc. However, in my case, this wasn’t true. When I was young and sharing a cheap apartment with my sister and so had a reasonable amount of disposable income, I bought lots of convenience food as I considered it a treat (frozen eclairs anyone?). I didn’t take time to cook because of the easy procurement of food whether through the many cheap, fast options (hot dog vendors and the like) found in downtown Chicago, convenience foods, and wanting to spend more time out of my cheap apartment than in. Fast forward 5 years to a remote “homestead” in Utah living with my boyfriend on 5 acres of desert. The newest store was over 30 miles away and we went into town only about once or twice a week and we were very poor and living off my savings. (This was my hippie, back to the land lifestyle at that time) Not to mention that although we wanted to live off the land, the land was not fertile for growing gardens. (corn only 2 feet high resulted!) I got into cooking via a neighbor who loved to cook and was very good, sharing her knowledge, inviting us over for dinners, then experimenting myself, making soups and other food-stretching recipes. She also loved wine although it was box wine and jugs but still, wine with food was a step up… Even when I moved into town, I still had little income, but then got quite creative, pulling out a copy of James Beard and Joy of Cooking and trying recipes like pot au feu, boston brown bread, dolmades and all kinds of exotic stuff that tasted great. We had free gas with a gas stove, so I could simmer soups and stews however long I wanted. Ingredients for soup, stew and bread were cheap. We would even dumpster-dive for thrown out veggies from the supermarket. I loved experimenting making different kinds of bread because we had a small potbelly stove in the kitchen and I could raise the dough in no time. I am amazed to this day the stuff I made. However, I had lots of time for cooking because I had only part-time jobs. I know it’s quite different today for most people. . But that gave me a taste for well-cooked food that continues to this day. I know that if I had to, I could go back to that lifestyle and live pretty well.

Today I work a regular job and have a comfortable income. For cooking, what works best for me are not the long-simmered soups anymore, but quick food using fresh produce. I especially like Asian noodle dishes. Or I might make something in stages over a couple of days. I also don’t like eating out for lunch or eating only sandwiches, so I’m always looking for something that leaves leftovers to heat up. To me cooking and eating well is a habit which is better tasting than the alternatives and I save money which I can then use for eating out at good restaurants or wine buying. I think once you come to realize that delicious food comes from the best ingredients and that then you don’t have to process/cook them too much, your cooking time can go way down unless you choose otherwise. I’d have to say, though, that this has been a learning process through the years.

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Fascinating account. But it is worth noting that when you were learning to cook fairly involved meals, you had the great luxury of time, which, in some ways, is more valuable than money.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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i work full-time, and sometimes add in a part-time job, as well as free-lancing.

i have a hectic training schedule, involving hitting the gym before going to work, and sometimes doing doubles and hitting it before going home.

i have a hectic social life, often involving staying out til 5 or 6 in the morning on weekends. (ok, sometimes it happens during the week too)

i'm not sure how i manage to find the time for all of this, or if i'm in a manic phase or soemthing, but i do.

And almost everything i eat is fresh, wholesome, "clean" food. it has to be, otherwise i would be training for naught. I make my breakfast in the morning, pack a couple of snacks to eat throughout the day, eat out for lunch, and come home to a meal i prepared for dinner.

my trick tho, is doing my extravagant cooking on weekends, and keeping it in the fridge to eat through out the week. I freeze a lot of my leftovers, cuz i can always make a meal out of it later. so while i don't cook every day, i eat something homecooked everyday. i feel i've been able to strike some sort of balance.

Edited by tryska (log)
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I have to agree with fresco here. It is time more than money that is needed to learn how to really cook. Not until I got axed from the workforce did I have time to do much more than get some food on the table. Now with very little money but lots of time I can do things over and over until I get them right! No, I cannot experiment with expensive ingredients but potato latkes, breads, stews, etc., can offer enough challenges to keep me interested for a long, long time.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I have to agree with fresco here. It is time more than money that is needed to learn how to really cook.

Right. It's surely not a coincidence that it's my friends (broke grad students) who like to cook and are good at it, while my wife's friends (lawyers) who, if they're interested in food at all, like to have it in a restaurant.

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