Things I Love About Food and Cooking

I was watering my rosemary plant yesterday, and the scent of the herb permeated the kitchen. I love that just watering herbs can bring out such a strong scent it actually makes me woozy. That, along with reader Lauren’s comment last week that there’s not a kitchen task she hates, got me to thinking about the little things I love about food and cooking.

Proofing yeast. Have you ever watched it work? It’s dorky, I know, but I’ll stand at the counter watching it bubbling, thinking “It’s alive!”

Licking the spoon. Raw brownie batter is almost as good as the finished product. Raw cookie dough is legendary among women, and I would hope some men, as a stress reliever and all around fabulous treat. Why wait 12 minutes for the cookies to come out of the oven? It’s all right there in the bowl.

Making gravy. Besides the fact that gravy should be one of the seven wonders of the world, watching it thicken while I stir is pretty wonderful all on its own. I know it’s chemistry, but it seems like a miracle to me.

Fresh coffee beans. Open the bag for the first time, and the scent comes wafting out like something from heaven.

Making lasagna. OK, I’ll just agree ahead of time that it’s not a small thing, but it’s not all that hard either. There are a lot of steps, including the Grating of the Cheese, which I’m already on record as hating. But when it comes out of the oven, all melty and pretty, it’s worth the work. Lasagna is love.

Sauteing onions. For something to go from tear-inducingly acrid to tear-inducingly sweet is another “I-know-it’s-chemistry-but-it-seems-like-a-miracle” moment to me. How does that happen? I don’t know, and I don’t care (so no chemistry lessons, please). I just know it smells fabulous.

Watching my small garden grow. It’s mostly in pots, and I don’t grow a huge variety of produce, but I’m a little proud of myself for making even a small effort. Seeing the arugula start to poke out of the dirt gives me a huge thrill.

Taking bread out of the oven. Each and every loaf has been a beautiful sight when I’ve opened the oven door and seen it for the first time. After baking bread for almost 30 years, it’s still a surprise to me that I know how to do it.

The moment during dinner when Logan looks at me and tells me he’s so glad he married me. Objectively, I know that cooking in and of itself, and cooking just for me, should be enough. But finding myself in the role of housewife, after growing up believing that I could have more than that often thankless job, and after a lifetime of having a real, live, actual, paying job and taking care of myself; and having those things taken away from me because my body has turned on itself to the point where I sometimes can’t cook dinner, it’s more than good to know that he realizes how important cooking is to me, and that he appreciates this thing I love to do.

Cooking can seem like a grand gesture, but it’s made up of a lot of little steps, from picking up your favorite knife to the final squeeze of lemon juice over the piccata. It’s the shock of the new and the comfort of the old. It’s using all of our senses, and reveling in the scent of freshly chopped garlic. We might not love every step all of the time, but the combination of all those steps can create something beautiful.