Initiation

The truth is, cooking doesn’t really get me thinking. If anything, cooking drains me of thoughts. I am so focused on doing the cooking that my mind seems to lose capacity to be filled with anything else. This becomes obvious when someone interrupts my cooking process and asks me a question. My usual response is, “Umhmm….[pause 30 seconds]….wait, what did you say?” If you’ve ever seen me cook, you know the event is usually chaotic. I spill every ingredient at least once on the counter or floor. I pull out nearly every dish from the cupboards, dirtying everything I have in the kitchen. And I am always multi-tasking. No recipe following– or if there is a recipe involved, I am frequently realizing I don’t have an ingredient, and I’m making last minute substitutions, additions, or omissions. I am always a busy cook, bustling from end to end of the kitchen. If people are helping me, I am the drill sergeant that barks out half-formed commands and puts everyone to work by waving my magic spatula.

Needless to say, this style of cooking doesn’t leave much space for thinking deep thoughts. My mind is filled with chocolate or garbanzo beans or carrots or vegetable stock. I’m a poor conversationalist while cooking. It’s amazing that my friends are so willing to come over to my place to cook with me. Maybe it’s because I usually send them home with full bellies and give them at least half the leftovers. I like to think they stay because they think I’m an awesome person, but hey, you never really know.

If I don’t do much thinking while cooking, I suppose, then, the title of this blog is a little out of place. It’s a misnomer, a misrepresentation, a lie. I am certainly self-conscious about the gender connotation that the title suggests. After all, how many young, middle-class, white women have a blog about cooking? How could my blog not be another manifestation of the social norms for my identity?

But, nevertheless, I think the title embodies some truth about me. I think that in the past couple of years, my friends have come to know me for my love of cooking. I’ve become a foodie to the core. In fact, just recently, a friend invited me over to his house, but yet I ended up directing the cooking of the meal. So, cooking has just come to be a part of my persona.

I love cooking because for me, it is a statement. I am making a political statement and a statement about my life. It’s political because I am careful about the food I purchase. I purchase from local and organic farmers, and I support all environmentally-minded and fair trade producers and processors. I even know personally some of the people from whom I buy. Every time I cook, my food is a representation of the local landscape– the local farmers, the local market, the local climate, the local soils, and the immediate season. I participate in the environment around me, hopefully creating change little by little, and ultimately nourishing myself and my friends with food that had a lot of loving energy go into it.

But cooking for me is also an expression of my paradigm on life. I wish sometimes that my attitude towards life resembled a little closer my attitude towards cooking– messy, exciting, improvised, and inspired. In my day-to-day life, I tend to prefer a little more organization than I do in the kitchen, but I think it is beautiful that cooking for me is an experience about making due with what I have and sharing it with everyone I know. Life is messy, just like cooking. My aim in life isn’t to clean up my messes, but to work with them, enjoy them, and learn from them. When I cook, I get a little closer to the person I deep down inside want to be.

And when all is said and done, and the meal is on the table, the best part comes next. I get to eat with all my friends, and good food often leads to good conversation. After all the hustle and bustle over the stove, I can sit down, maybe with a beer in my hand, and relax. And the thoughts come. My prior focus on the cooking gives way to enjoyment with others and plenty on which to ruminate. Perhaps, after all, cooking does get me thinking. Just not in the moment.

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