Why I Started Cooking

A pizza I made in a cast iron skillet.

I love food. Maybe too much, but that’s another discussion. Cooking is one of my few productive hobbies and one of my favorites. Every now and then someone asks me how I got into cooking so I wanted to give an in-depth explanation.

It channels and challenges my inner creative.

I consider myself a creative person. Trying new things and innovative ways to do old things is something I pride myself on. Although I lived in NYC at the time, I was bored with ordering the same takeout every week. I’m a visual learner. I learned how to cook by watching “Chopped” (on the contrary, if you want to see atrocious cooking watch “Worst Cooks in America”). For hours on end I would watch these professional chefs make exquisite dishes with odd ingredients. I never thought the techniques were that difficult, so I would go into my own kitchen and experiment. No recipes and no experience — just trying random things. There was a lot of failure, smoke detectors set off, fingers burned and not good food. But like anything else, practice makes perfect. Cooking is an immediate gratification (or let down) kind of thing. Also, there’s satisfaction in seeing the others react to your food. It makes me feel good to know that something I made fed someone and also that they enjoyed it.

It saves money.

Every city that I’ve lived in has been expensive. That’s a constant that will never change. While it’s quicker and easier to order something or pick something up, those smaller purchases add up. Growing up, my mother would always say to me, “50 dollars at the grocery store will always go further than it will in a restaurant.” It took me almost ten years but I finally understand what she meant. One skill that you develop as you get better in the kitchen is using smart shopping tactics and creating a plan when grocery shopping. Aimlessly roaming around the grocery store rarely ends well. Capitalizing on sales and knowing what days to go to the grocery store can be the difference between full price and a third of that.

It’s a journey.

Food is cultural. Before I started cooking I would be hesitant to try foods because they looked strange or sounded unappetizing. Trying foods that are outside of my comfort zone allows me to briefly experience that culture. Cooking is also a multi-step process from start to finish. Finding the right recipe, going to the store to get the necessary ingredients, meticulously following the instructions down to precise timing and measurements and of course, eating. It takes a lot of attention to detail (pro tip: Tbsp and tsp are not to be confused, trust me) but in the end it’s worth it. As I got better I found myself learning and using new vocabulary and techniques. Things that I never thought that I would be excited to own like a juicer or cast iron skillet become valuable and irreplaceable. Searching for new recipes or perfecting a technique becomes exciting. Having a diverse palete enhances the dining experience.

The most important meal of the day. Also, egg porn.

For the future

I hope to have children one day. Like any normal person I want what’s best for him or her. The contemporary food landscape doesn’t look promising. Look at the nutrition facts on the foods you consume on a daily basis. They’re packed with sugar and salt. I’m not a food snob by any means but there are plenty of foods (and restaurants) on our current food landscape that I would not want my kids eating. I would feel more comfortable having an understanding of exactly what their food intake is. My thought process is if I continually get better and have a variety of foods I can prepare, by the time I have children I could make a diverse range of foods for them. Listen to the kids, bro.