The Benefits of Cooking for Yourself

Mai Mislang
The Startup
Published in
7 min readSep 8, 2019

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A fruit and vegetable salad evidently sliced by an amateur

I love to cook. I love the person that I become when I am cooking. From choosing a recipe to market shopping to chopping ingredients to heating the pan to the lovely aroma of garlic sizzling in olive oil, every step is a journey of discovery.

I first learned to cook in high school. We had a home economics course and I managed to whip up a decently baked chicken a la king, just by following the instructions to a T. This was an epiphany because it validated for the first time the axiom “If you can read, you can cook.” It was not as hard as I originally thought.

One summer, I took a week-long culinary course for kids, even though I was already about to enter college. It was one of those strange circumstances that managed to work out when the age limit is 16 and you happen to be 17 and there is really no program for a 17-year-old and it was just me and my friend so they gave us two slots. Each day, we would discover a different country through its cuisine: Monday was for Italian, Tuesday was Spanish, Wednesday was Chinese, and so on. The instructor made us taste everything we cooked and let us keep the recipes. It was fun, and it triggered a lifelong passion for food and cooking.

Making magic in the kitchen involves many moving parts, and my favorite things each have a role to play: books, music, wine, planning, and organization. I am the boss in the kitchen, at least during the holidays when everyone makes way and gives me the space I need. If you are not washing the dishes or chopping vegetables, you better get out, or help out instead by setting the table or buying some missing ingredients. The outcome of my culinary experiments are not always consistent, but I can assure you, nothing ever reaches the table that I do not find edible.

Over the years, life became busier and opportunities to cook leisurely have waned. I did cook a lot in graduate school because I had no choice — I was on a shoestring budget and wanted to eat Filipino food. But I am back to my privileged life here in the Philippines, where access to household help is affordable. It is easy to delegate the hard work to someone else, and just do all the eating. So I have a yaya that prepares home-cooked meals for me when I am unable to physically participate in their creation. She is a big help, especially since I want to…

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Mai Mislang
The Startup

Former presidential speechwriter, still a musician; owns a bakery, loves her dog. Tries to write more prose than poetry. Filipina from Manila.