Cooking is hardly a culinary matter. As it is with family dinners, the preparation of food has a way of cutting through things, and to things, which have nothing to do with, food. Granted, the idea of cooking, or even a new recipe, can sometimes feel like an instruction manual or a map of a land we do not inhibit. Perhaps this is because much of modern cooking induces a mood in the cook of skin-of-the-teeth efficiency, all briskness and little pleasure, with an expectation that every dish will delight (remember, a cake is just a cake). Sometimes the “just get it done so we can eat” mentality is the best we can manage, time restrictions are undeniable. But, other times we don’t want to feel like slaves in the kitchen. Not to say that we should confine ourselves to the kitchen nor even suggest that it might be desirable, but I do think that many of us have become alienated from this domestic sphere, and that it can actually make us feel better to claim back some of that space, make it comforting rather than frightening. Make the food making process one of peace, pleasure and warmth, a daily activity we can engage our kids in for their benefit as well as our own, and a time to explore and nurture our culinary talents (even though we may have few) to the nourishment of our bodies. In a way, cooking (or baking) stands as a useful metaphor for the familial warmth of the kitchen we fondly imagine used to exist. A place of sanctuary. A place to feed, not just our bodies, but our souls. This is why cooking matters.
Another thing, one of the reasons making food is satisfying is that the effort required is so much less than the gratitude conferred. It doesn’t have to take more than 30 minutes to produce this or that, and the returns are high. You feel disproportionately good about yourself afterwards. This is what it’s about; feeling good, wafting along in the warm, sweet smelling air, unwinding, no longer being entirely an office creature, or a housekeeper creature, or whatever; that’s what “comfort cooking” is. It’s not about being a domestic goddess, but feeling like one!
Here’s to the endless approbation from anyone who has the good fortune to eat from your kitchen. Cheers!