Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday 13: The Case for Cooking

Although I don’t understand it myself, apparently there are people in this world who don’t like and/or don’t know how to cook. Both camps pain me greatly, and so I’m here today to start my campaign to get the world a-cookin’. First, I’ll begin with Thursday 13 reasons you should get in the kitchen today. As time goes on, I’ll add some cooking how-tos for those culinarily curious.

Vegetable curry is a perennial fav.
1. Healthier lifestyle. Recipes from The Pioneer Woman notwithstanding, cooking at home generally affords a healthier lifestyle. Typically restaurant foods (especially those of the fast variety) use a ton of salt and fat for flavor. Learning how to prepare food can keep you eating and staying well.
2. Leftovers! So many dishes turn twice as delicious the next day (yes, I’m owning that rhyme right there). Plus you can save money on going out to eat by bringing leftovers to work.
3. Cook once, eat twice (or if you’re me, 10 times). Although cooking admittedly takes time, with some forethought, you can prepare meals that feed your family more than once. If you have Cook For An Army Syndrome like yours truly, you may even be able to make your energies do triple or quadruple duty. At least once a week, I like to make entrees we can eat twice, and then freeze to enjoy  later in the month (or year).
4. Caring for friends and family. Good cooking can be a gift. Whether it’s making a meal for your immediate family or taking food to a friend in need, cooking allows you to demonstrate care to your loved ones. For the record, my M.O. is to make casserole and/or cookies.
Potatoes Anna. Easy and incredibly satisfying.
5. Wooing. Want to know how Mr. T won my heart? With spinach and strawberry salad, Welsh rarebit, sautéed chicken, spaetzels, and burgundy mushrooms and peppers. Years and years later, I remember exactly the production number dinner he prepared. If you want to woo a significant other, the kitchen is a good place to start. (We may or may not have gotten my brother Josh the book “Will Cook for Sex” for Christmas. Hey, if it works…)
6. Saving money. Think back to the last $10 plate of pasta or $12 chicken dish you ordered. Did you know you can make most meals for a fraction of the cost a restaurant will charge? Knowing how to cook is a big time cash keeper.
Pancakes with blueberry compote. Oh yes.
7. DIY gifts. It’s easy to turn your culinary creativity into beautiful (and tasty) gifts for friends and family. One year my sister made everyone out-of-this-world spaghetti sauce for Christmas, and I always look forward to Deb’s apple cake and my mom’s peach jam.
8. Sharing identity and culture. By sharing food, you can share who you are. For instance, I got to know my old roommate Matt best when we were in the kitchen. By talking about, preparing and cooking food together, he taught me about Hawaiian traditions and how he grew up (and a hundred other things). Likewise, I love that my friend Geeta makes me Indian tea when I crash at her place and that we always find ourselves chatting over raviolis or popcorn or most recently, mango lassi. I’ve learned so much about my friends by cooking with them.
9. Expressing creativity. Whether it’s cobbling together a menu from disparate ingredients, trying a complicated recipe, or preparing something aesthetically pleasing, cooking is an excellent creative outlet. It combines art and science, improvisation and structure. And have I mentioned, it’s fun?
Sauteed chicken and roasted root veggies.
10. Bragworthy bashes. Our best parties have involved home-cooked vittles. In particular, our annual Christmas brunch is now a beloved family tradition.
11. Stress relieving. At least for me, the kitchen can be a retreat from the stresses of the day. Although I admit I don’t always feel like cooking, most of the time, chopping and frying and stirring can ease my soul.
12. Staying connected. Want to keep a couple, a family, a friend network connected? Make a meal. When I think about the friends we see most often, and the family events that I remember most fondly, I can envision us around a kitchen table.
13. Did I mention leftovers?



  1. What a fabulous post! At every point you made I was like YES! EXACTLY! Of course I'm a little biased as I too love to cook.

    I've really been amazed at how much of a change cooking can make in your lifestyle. I've more or less known how to cook since I was a kid, but didn't fully embrace it until a few years ago.

    In my first marriage, cooking a meal was never encouraged. Thus we ate out ALL THE TIME. As in we spent hundreds of dollars every month on eating at places we really couldn't afford. Spending $50+ at a restaurant every night was very common. I swear most of the debt racked up during that time was just from eating out too much. Not to mention all the extra pounds I put on from eating appetizers, entree, and dessert. It blows my mind now. But I realized during that time that eating out all the time gets to be not so fun. It loses its special-ness. These days when my husband and I go out to eat it's a big deal and I value the experience more. And I've found that in general, the food I make at home tastes better anyway! There are only a handful of restaurants we go to just because we're always disappointed by everything else. Planning a menu every week & grocery shopping isn't my favorite thing to do, but it sure is nice to come home and have a full list of fast, delicious, healthy meals I can make depending on my mood. No more shuffling around the kitchen opening and closing cupboards trying to find some mediocre meal to satisfy a growling belly.

    I also whole-heartedly agree with food being a great way to "woo" someone and to bring family and friends together. My husband was one who would eat frozen burritos every night without blinking an eye. It's been funny to see how his tastes have developed over the years. And my favorite part of making dinner is to see his reactions to what I've made. I'm like the crazy little old lady with the meatballs on "Wedding Singer." And that's not to mention the joy I get from having dinner parties with my family. Mainly because it's my way of staying in the #1 spot with my dad. Do whatever you can to be the favorite I always say!

    Ok I'm going to stop there because I've already written a book. Again... loved this post!

  2. But but but!! What about just letting your husband, who likes to cook, do it? I just...I don't like it. I'm sorry. It gives me the stress and the sad. Except for a few dishes that I've got down pat.

  3. Karen, given your Gravy Training, I can't imagine you ever not cooking! And now I will forever imagine you as that little old lady with meatballs. ha!

    MWK- A husband who likes to cook? Wowza! Keep that one. ;) And I am stealing "the stress and the sad" for the record.

  4. Missed this post, so had to check it out after reading your kitchen gadgets list. I rarely eat out and, being single, can make most things I cook last several meals (lunch and dinner). Often I end up freezing half of what I make, which comes in handy for those nights you really don't feel like cooking or have the time.