Image from Caroline Attwood on Unsplash
Food has always been a huge source of joy for me. Of those who eat to live or live to eat, I am definitely the latter. I could spend hours scouring food blogs for new recipes, whether or not I have any intent of actually cooking them. Just admiring the novel flavor pairings and beautiful photography fills me with inspiration. When I was young, I would watch cooking shows that demonstrated how to sear a piece of fish or make a béchamel sauce even though my 11 year old self was certainly not capable of such things.
As I got a little older and tired of eating the bland fare of my childhood, I started to experiment on my own with the skills I had honed from watching people cook on TV. In fact, I owe my garlic chopping abilities to none other than Rachel Ray. My mother was more than willing to let me take the reins in the dinner making department, because even though we always ate as a family, the food was definitely not the main focus (see “eat to live” above). I started off by following recipes I clipped from magazines or found online to a tee, but as I got more comfortable with the basic skills, I was able to improvise a little bit, or come up with new meal ideas on my own.
It was at this point that I really found the therapeutic nature of making dinner every night. There is something oddly calming about methodically chopping vegetables, and the smell of garlic and onions sautéing in olive oil is second to none (a good start to pretty much any meal – another tip à la Rachel). But I found true freedom in not following any recipe at all. As someone who tends to be a bit too type-A in my parts of my life, the idea of “winging it” in regard to following instructions is enough to induce mild panic, but thankfully food is pretty forgiving. A sauce will not be ruined by 1/4 tsp too much oregano, and the world will not end if you don’t get the rice to water ratio right. This philosophy has followed me through to my collegiate cooking, and I have to say, at a time in my life where I am continually following syllabi and recommended course lists, it is cathartic to throw caution to the wind and just piece together whatever food sounds good to me. I’m a rebel, what can I say.
So while my current culinary style is mostly a function of efficiency and feigned creative expression, I long for the day when a beautifully presented Sunday roast dinner, or a perfectly cooked loaf of sourdough spread with a hefty portion of good butter (read in Ina Garden’s voice) is my norm. But for now, I like that the season of life I’m in can be mirrored by the food I’m cooking.