“Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music.”
This month I am exploring all kinds of ways that I like to play. Cooking is one of them. Now, cooking is not always a favorite activity. Give me a time crunch. Give me fussy kids who will only eat macaroni and cheese. Give me a tiny space with limited utensils and chopping space. Well—if those are the gimmes—cooking is not all that fun. When my children were little and their taste buds were limited and we were running from sport to activity, I could pass on the cooking fun.
Besides cooking within the limits above—I have always loved to gook. I love collecting recipes. I have cookbooks and family recipes that date back to my grandmother’s time. I have cookbooks from my wedding. My cookbooks span from The Joy of Cooking by Julia Childs to Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I look forward to our seasonal “Wegman’s Magazine” that gives all kinds of cooking tips and recipes researched by our local grocer extraordinaire. Traditional, vegetarian and ethnic—I love to find recipes and prepare meals that my family and friends enjoy.
I am a recipe girl but have also enjoyed the art of cooking without a recipe. This cooking venture started for me by knowing a recipe and then making adaptations. The venture has grown to sometimes just exploring with food. Cooking like this looks something like this: I think about if there is any kind of food I have been wanting to make. Then I go to the fridge and pantry to see what is there and begin to imagine. I bring out the vegetables and chop. I might add some protein and a starch. What kind of spices would make this dish complete? Is there an unusual ingredient that would add to the dish? Sometimes these dishes are more than a hit—other times a total flop. (On those days a local restaurant makes for a good alternative.) After the creative process, I sometimes go into my recipes to find like creations and think about how I might prepare the dish differently the next time.
There is a process of experimentation and play that makes cooking this way fun. The outcome is a risk, but more often than not the result is tasty. Now, this can be carried to an extreme. I used to date someone who liked to experiment with cooking in this way. He wasn’t as concerned about the final taste as he was about adding unusual combinations. The night I went to his house and he served me a concoction of peanut butter and tuna was the night that I told him that I would not like to eat his food. I couldn’t—it was awful. He wasn’t afraid to have awful (the markings of a true artist) but he also knew when enough was enough. We threw that stuff away and he took me to a very nice restaurant. And a year later he became my husband for the next 20 years. The deal was I cooked and he took me out. Occasionally he got in one of his wild cooking moods. I just didn’t engage. I let him create and eat it himself—or pitch it. Whatever worked best for him.
So, I learned in my exploration of cooking that some concoctions are inedible. Some are delicious. Some good. Cooking with creativity is playn fun.
One Note of Caution: Cooking this way works best for things that do not involve baking (cookies, cakes, pies and the like). Baking pastries and desserts involve much more precision than the cooking I described. A little bit of this and a little bit of that when baking a cake or a bread is often a recipe for disaster.
PLAY-TITUDE #18: Cook to create and enjoy the fruits of your toil!
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for writers and teachers of writing to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.