Food is magic.

Everyone has their thing.

At a certain point this thing happens where people realize that they’ve been dabbling in a little bit of everything, just trying to take it all in but at least one element of this world has started to stand out more than others. It can happen at 3-years-old or at 50, but eventually most people find something to define themselves. For some people it’s a sport or even individual allegiance to a team. For others it’s a band or a whole genre of music. Or you’re enthralled with the escapism of comic books. Maybe indie movies really work for you. Point is, if you’re lucky enough in this world to not be mired down by simply being able to provide for yourself, chances are you’ll find something that excites you, something you can’t get enough of.

For better or worse, for me, that’s food. All aspects of it.

For the longest time I couldn’t quite put into words why food was so important to me. I couldn’t explain my own obsession. I understood I enjoyed flavor, I had always been a constant eater, and all of my best memories are centered around the dinner table or the grill. My grandfather was a diner chef. My mother and grandmother have that natural family knack for traditional Greek foods that you always hear bold new chefs harken back to. My dad can’t steam a head of broccoli to save his life. My first jobs were all in restaurants, though largely behind the bar.

And I ate. I mean, seconds, thirds. Pretty much anything you put in front of me. I was raised on more spanakopita than pizza. As kids we more often found ourselves in New York restaurants than Burger King. Lucky enough to be exposed to it all, I took it in.

But, it wasn’t until recently that I could quite define the feeling it gave me, and what drove me to seek out new flavors and experiences. I don’t think

See, food is magic. To eat–or maybe more so to cook and to eat–is to expose yourself to the unknown. It means taking something and applying a process, always largely unseen and chemical, and turning it into something else entirely. It means being prepared for any sort of unexpected flavor profile, like going to a show by your favorite band and getting a new song each time.

Think about any time you’ve made eggs, watching the whites form and crisp, transforming what would naturally be a bland gloop into a cohesive and flavorful pack of structured protein. The smallest changes can result in the biggest differences. That is the closest we have to natural magic, and it’s accessible to everyone.

The slightest changes in how you prepare a food can make the biggest difference. An extra minute and your steak goes from medium rare to almost well-done. Add too much salt and your Sunday stew is ruined. Start your sauté with garlic and you’re cooking like an Italian; end it with garlic and you’ve gone Asian. Time, contents and temperature all define the consistency of your potion.

Food also transforms you, but you know that. Eat too much, or not the right stuff, and you’ll feel terrible. Eat too little and you’ll feel weak. But find the perfect combination of quantity, quality, and nutrition and you’ll feel the magical quality of resolve that even some drugs can’t give you. It brings unrivaled happiness even in the hardest of times. When in doubt, eat.

Food takes patience, it takes understanding, it takes adventurousness. Food is always changing, always reinventing. We need it and we love it.

I’m glad I know that now.