What is the joy in cooking? For many people, cooking is nothing but a chore, and something that they derive no pleasure from whatsoever. I wish it wasn’t that way, which is why I am publishing this piece intending to encourage and (if it’s not too much of an exaggeration 🙂 ) inspire people to get into cooking, and actually try to enjoy it. To help with this piece I put out the following query:
For people who love cooking but are not professional chefs, what is it about cooking that you really love most and how would you encourage people to get more into cooking? All comments welcome. Your comments will be published in an article intended to inspire people to try cooking and trying new recipes for enjoyment.
I got some great responses to that. Here are the main reasons people love cooking, summarized:
- The ability to be creative, and the sense of satisfaction knowing you can provide for yourself
- The joy when your family tries a new dish you cook and they enjoy it
- To wind down & relax
- For personal growth
- As a break from everything else
- The feeling of nourishing yourself, knowing that there are no hidden ingredients
- Cooking isn’t difficult, and you can create many great dishes without much time or skill
- You get to experiment with and experience totally new things. There’s plenty of room to be creative
- In some cases, bonding with friends & family while you cook
- Connecting yourself to your heritage and bring back old memories (eg. when cooking a classic dish your grandmother used to make)
And, below are all the complete submissions. If you’re into cooking yourself and have anything to add, please make a submission yourself and we’ll add it below.
I'm not a professional chef, but absolutely love cooking. What I love most about cooking is the ability to be creative. It allows experimentation with different spices, cuisines, and techniques. It also gives you the opportunity to learn about different cultures and cuisines, which can be fascinating.
Cooking your own food gives you a sense of satisfaction - knowing that you are able to provide for yourself and cook something amazing at the same time. I truly believe that anyone can cook, and it can be fun! Especially in the times we are in now, being able to look in your pantry and create something out of what you have is just an incredibly satisfying feeling.
I would encourage everyone to learn a little about cooking and to just start experimenting!
--Danielle Wolter, Went Here 8 This
As a stay-at-home dad, the moment I love the most is the joy on my kid's face, when he taste and like a new recipe I just made especialy for him. It's really hard to compete with the fast food restaurants in terms of taste. So when my children eat a healthy homemade dish and ask for more, I'm the happiest father in the world!
--Corrie Duffy, Corrie Cooks
I learned to love cooking after leaving my mom's house. She was taught to cook food until it was mushy and well done. Once on my own, I could explore cooking techniques through magazines and books to learn how to make food taste good. Cooking is something we have to learn to love if we weren't taught at home or what we were taught we didn't care for. Cooking is therapeutic to me. I love the process of chopping up vegetables and making a sauce from scratch. But loving to cook also means fitting it into our schedules. I have the most time on the weekend to meal prep or make casseroles that can be reheated during busy weeks. Learning to rely on frozen vegetables or canned sauces to quickly pull together a 20 minute meal during the week. I often get inspired by reading blog posts or finding a YouTube video to watch.
--Heather Donahue, Heather's Health Habits
Cooking for me is a satisfying release. A way to wind down at the end of the day with a soup simmering on the stove and a glass of wine in hand. And a way to have a bit of control when the rest of the day has felt out of control. And a way to end the day creating something fulfilling.
I would encourage people to get in to cooking by focusing on simple recipes that are easy to execute, but also delicious. Recreating a childhood favorite, or copy a simple restaurant meal (there are many clones out there). Most recipe's are easier to make than you might think. Also, invest in some good tools that you enjoy using. There's nothing more gratifying than the tactile and visual experience of a sharp knife chopping with ease over a beautifully crafted cutting board.
Lastly, I would say my favorite thing about cooking and also the best way to get more into it is by cooking with others. Invite some friends over and make it an experience. Let your kids help out with the measuring and pouring. Maybe even make a who cooked it better game out of the meal.
The reasons and ways to enjoy the experience of cooking are endless. Whatever you do, though, enjoy it with a glass of wine in hand.
--Matt Lim, Matthew Lim Photography
Some people consider cooking a chore, while others (like me!) consider it a wonderfully relaxing pastime. For some people, though, learning about food prep techniques, shopping, growing a garden, or trying new recipes presents a unique therapeutic opportunity. Under the guidance of a nutritionist, therapist, or professional chef, the patient learns about food, nutrition, and develops a healthy relationship with food.
But it doesn't stop there - culinary therapy, like many other types of therapy, can help with memory problems, stress, anxiety, depression, and stress. Most commonly used with the eating disorders population, it can also be extremely helpful with ADHD, for example, by improving attention and focus.
There are so many benefits that come from having a healthy relationship with one's kitchen. 🙂
--Shari Youngblood, 5aDay Media
The thing I love most about cooking is being able to serve myself a meal that I love to eat. In the past, this has meant being able to recreate my mom's favourite recipes cent per cent, without having to ask her or, as in my case, when I was studying abroad.
The desire to cook has to come from within and it seems that for most people, they need to have been put in an uncomfortable situation where they have no choice but to cook for themselves. The reason could be moving out of your parents' house, scarcity of good food available to you locally, or a global pandemic like COVID-19.
There are those, of course, who I would classify as foodies. They don't need much encouragement to cook because they already enjoy eating good food and are a hint of inspiration away from cooking something new or different.
Me, I am in the 'eat to survive' category but I have gradually paved my way to becoming a foodie. Now, instead of measuring ingredients to the gram while following a recipe, I sometimes dare to mix it up a bit and experiment! It's major personal growth for me, and the best part is that my 4 year old girl who can be a picky eater loves it when I cook something new or different.
Only a couple of days ago she asked for spaghetti and meatballs but since we had neither of the main ingredients, I ventured into making macaroni and sausages with the sausages forming the base of the sauce, which was a hit!
--Nabeel Khalid, nubealscooking.com
I'm not a chef by any means but I am a wife and mom of 2, stepmom of 2 who cooks at least 6 nights out of the week (currently 7 nights!). What I love about cooking is that for me it is also a break from everything else. My 4 and 5 year olds sit at the kitchen counter and chat with me while I cook dinner and there's something therapeutic in chopping things like garlic. I enjoy trying out new recipes and the ability to know what my family likes to eat and creating a new dish for them that I truly know they will enjoy.
I think something many people forget is that cooking is simple. It's following directions from a recipe. I firmly believe that anyone can cook if they just follow the instructions and it can be a simple pasta dish or it can be something fancy that takes hours. I think a great tip is to also find staple recipes which are your go to meals and have ingredients you always keep on hand.
--Michelle Glogovac, michelleglogovac.com
What I love about cooking the most is the feeling of nourishing myself. I know exactly what's going into my food and I can make it exactly the way I want. No hidden ingredients, no weird additives or preservatives. I just focus on fresh, whole foods so my meals taste great and make me feel good. And when I share my food with others, I know I'm taking care of them and showing my love for them as well.
--Don Baiocchi, Paleo Gluten Free Guy
I am a registered dietitian and passionate home cook but not a professional chef. I love cooking because it allows me to tailor my dishes to fit the health needs and taste preferences of my family members. When I have a little extra time, I find cooking to be relaxing (so important in these stressful times!). Additionally, I can listen to my favorite podcasts while I cook, which makes the activity that much more enjoyable.
--Summer Yule, SummerYule.com
When I cook for my family, I find joy in knowing this is how my grandmother communicated with us, through her love of cooking for the family. Especially on Sundays. When I was younger, I would watch her in the kitchen and thought it was so much hard work from prepping to the dinner table. When I would ask about her unyielding commitment in the kitchen, she would only say, "One day you will love what it means to serve dinner prepared by you for your family." She gave that response each time until I eventually stopped asking.
Fast forward to COVID19. I spend my spare moments in the kitchen dreaming up meals that are not only beautiful in presentation but worthy of the one word praises like delicious, fabulous, and amazing! Their smiles leave encouraged throughout a Sunday brunch or weeknight dinner. Lately, I have been cooking meals that coincide with books that I am reading. This gives me an opportunity to have a conversation without mentioning the virus. I allow the meal and its ties with the book take us away from our new normal.
I also love my tablescapes. The table decor really makes each meal feel special. My grandmother was right! I really do love watching my family dine at home devouring a meal prepared by me.
--Genma Holmes, genmaholmes.com
*Cooking is my therapy *
When I am in the kitchen, preparing meals, baking or creating a new dish, I feel at ease, in the flow and very happy. Cooking is therapeutic for me, because it keeps me in the present moment.
*Cooking is my way of showing love *
Whether I make a meal for my family that we get to enjoy together, or cook something to drop off for a friend or relative, it is my way of telling them I care, and hopefully bring a little more joy to their day. When we cook together as a family, we pass along our heritage, special recipes and teach our children the importance of good food and spending time with each other.
*Cooking is healthy *
When we prepare meals at home, we get to control the amount of fat, sodium, and sugar that goes into the dishes. By cooking our meals, we get to be the gatekeepers avoiding food dyes, additives, and other ingredients that aren't good for us. We eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and less of the unhealthy kinds of fats.
--Lynell Ross, Zivadream
I have a Bachelor's Degree (BS) in Food Science from UC Davis and I’m emphatically in love with everything food.
This love did not always exist though. In fact, the majority of my life I was convinced I could not be in the food industry because I was such a terrible cook! Countless times I attempted what seemed like simple recipes, only to fall remarkably short of my expectations.
Cooking failed to be fun because I wasn’t good at it. I thought it was an inherited skill. In other words, you either had it or you didn’t.
I was initially at UC Davis pursuing a medical degree, but I changed majors because I wasn’t in love with what I was learning. I changed to Food Science because I knew no matter what, I would always love food. Even if I couldn’t make anything worth eating, at least I’d be surrounded by it.
It’s been a long journey, but without a doubt, the majority of my cooking skills were gained within a matter of a week. It was all about confidence. I thought all delicious dishes required uniquely picked ingredients, measured and quantified perfectly, and added at the exact right moment. For the majority of my favorite dishes, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The top reasons I started to love cooking (besides my already well intact love for good food).
1) Some of the greatest dishes in the world are simple to create and require less than 5 ingredients.
2) Cooking is not an inherited skill, it is an acquired skill that takes time and patience. The perk of this being that you get to try some pretty fantastic food along the way.
3) I started laughing at myself when I brutally screwed up a dish. (I also always keep my favorite meal ingredients close by in case I do butcher a new creation).
4) Diversifying the palate isn’t about touting what you know, it’s about experiencing new things. It’s also about experiencing the old stuff in new ways.
5) While I emphasize the science of food, most of the knowledge I use is simple. For example, oils have a higher boiling point than water. Therefore cooking in oil will cook food faster. Faster cooking means less moisture loss, which in turn means a juicier meal. (Just one example)
6) Confidence! I can’t emphasize this enough, confidence is ultimately what made me want to cook more. Confidence didn’t come with years of cooking, it came with cooking a few dishes to my expectations. Getting some compliments from other eaters didn’t hurt either.
--Michael Murdy, Robust Kitchen
So many reasons why I love to cook, but mostly, for the pure joy of discovering new foods and flavor combinations. I have found, almost without exception, that the fabulous chicken dish you had at that great restaurant last week is not that different from the one you make for your family every Tuesday night, save for an accoutrement. It still surprises me how the addition of a fresh herb like dill or chervil, or a light drizzle of a quick sauce made of soy sauce, butter and a single anchovy fillet, or even the sprinkling of a quick condiment like gremolata, can elevate the ho-hum to *haute cuisine*.
--Darrin Nordahl, darrinnordahl.com
I hope you consider barbecuing as cooking :).
What I really love about barbecuing is the flavor of the food. Mind you, I prefer cooking with charcoal rather than gas. Gas might be convenient with just a push of a button. But it can't beat the flavor coming from hot coals. The flavor from charcoal comes from the leftover wood that hasn't been burned down to charcoal or carbonized. It's very mild but pretty good if you pair it with light protein sources such as chicken or fish. For heavier protein like beef or port, you've got to use real wood. My favorites are oak and hickory. Oak is great for ribs and hickory is for brisket or pork butt. Another wood I've recently tried is maple. It has a sweet taste and smell.
Another thing I like is I can spend more time with my friends and family. If you like to cook for other people, barbecuing is a great choice. You prepare your grill and meat. Then you talk to people around you while you're cooking, preferably over a cold, frosty beverage. Barbecuing is a sociable activity and great for building relationships. If you just cook by yourself, it's also excellent to just relax and reflect. It's something very appealing about tending a fire and thinking about the meaning of life while you're at it.
So how can people get more into barbecuing? The first thing is to buy a grill. I'd recommend starting with a Weber Kettle. This thing is the most versatile cooker ever made. You can grill and smoke meat with it. Start with some dry runs on your new grill. That is to familiarize yourself with the cooker. It also helps seal any gaps in the grill.
Then watch Youtube videos and/or read blogs. Pick a couple of simple recipes to start with such as steaks and dive in. There will be a learning curve but it's not steep at all. Once you get good at those simple recipes, try out other stuff. You can also experiment with meat smoking. It usually takes longer to smoke meat but the final product is really tasty.
That's all you need to get started with barbecuing. Very easy to do but rewarding at the same time.
--Thinh Phan, BBQInProgress.com
Once I started a practice of cooking every day, I (re)discovered how home cooking helps me de-stress because it feels meditative to chop vegetables and prepare ingredients. If you're stuck behind a computer screen 10+ hours a day and tired of pushing around zeros and ones, you can probably relate. It feels amazing to connect with tangible things and evoked my 5 senses through cooking. Plus, food is one of the easiest ways to create something amazing to share with another person and express yourself while doing it.
I think one important way to encourage more people to get into cooking is to remind them that it can be simple, fun, and quick. It doesn't have to be intense cooking marathons every day. Somehow we think we have to follow complex recipes like what America's Test Kitchen or Serious Eats publishes to get something worthy to share on Instagram. But even those cooks and chefs probably don't cook gourmet meals every day.
Finally, I like to encourage people to cook by reminding them about finding joy in mistakes too, like when a dish doesn’t come together but we still learned something in the process.
--Anna Rider, GarlicDelight.com
Most people are intimidated by cooking, because they think that it takes a lot of time, or they require fancy equipment or chef-level skills. This is NOT the case at all! While I love watching cooking shows a la Food Network, I rarely cook anything that requires expensive or mysterious ingredients or can be found only at specialty stores.
Here are ways to grow a love of homemade food:
1) Start with the staple ingredients you normally have on hand and come up with your core family meals. I recommend doing de-constructured versions of your favorites, if you have picky eaters or allergies.
2) Add one main event food for the weekly meal plan- one week could be pineapple (make it into a savory creation, and then use the rest for dessert)
3) Experiment with spices- these are great replacements for cream and cheese. Add cumin and chili pepper with a touch of cinnamon for a Mexican flare, turmeric, garlic and ginger for Indian inspiration, or oregano, garlic and lemon for an Italian vibe.
4) While getting started, don't try to cook a whole week's worth of meals in one day. Instead, choose one meal PER day that you commit to making from scratch. Set a daily theme for that meal to make it easier to swap out between your core meals and your new recipes for variety (examples could be meatless Monday, water Wednesday for seafood, snack Saturday or super Sunday for kids choose).
5) The first time you make a new recipe, make it EXACTLY as noted. The second time around, add a personalization. For example, I typically sub a whole grain flour such as oat bran or spelt for part of the white flour in most baked goods for some added fiber. Even my kids don't notice.
--Jennifer Espinosa-Goswami, weightlesschronicles.com
My love affair with food began when I started watching Food Network regularly as a kid. That's how I learned about many different kinds of dishes and flavor combinations.
I think that's what I like most about cooking - the creative freedom. I love experimenting in the kitchen.
Experimentation is how I ended up making some of my favorite culinary creations, including croissant French toast, cauliflower tacos, and potato-apple hash.
If I was trying to encourage someone to get more into cooking, I would probably emphasize the fact that cooking is not just about following recipes.
Sure, recipes are a great way to learn, but once you've got the basics down, you can get creative and have even more fun with food.
--Andrew Farinaccio, Hotels4Teams
I like cooking because I can experiment with recipes and different combinations. I'll often look-up several recipes for the same thing and then riff on them. For example, I might prefer the spice combination in one recipe while I prefer making the batter of another.
I'm also a vegetarian, which leads to more experimentation with vegetables and tofu. I've typically only used tofu in Asian dishes, but there are many recipes online for making sausage crumbles and eggs with tofu. I've also made meatballs and spaghetti with chickpeas instead of meat.
I also enjoy cooking because I constantly try new things. If someone were trying to get more into cooking, I'd recommend taking a look at food blogs to find food you're excited to eat and make. Make sure that you're as excited to make the recipe as you are to eat it. Otherwise, you might get overwhelmed. If you're worried about getting overwhelmed in the middle of a recipe, breads are a good place to start because it's easy to break up the steps. You mix the dough and let it rise. You form the dough and then let it rise again. Then, you bake it. It takes time, but the task is broken up into steps.
--Alice Stevens, Best Company
Cooking really brings me back to my culture when I’ve been born and raised in the US. As a digital content creator, a lot of my audience is not just of South Asian descent, but a great majority of them actually live back there. Cooking for me has been a means of therapy, but as of late, it has turned in to a great opportunity to share content with my audience on Instagram stories and connect with them via sharing how I, too, am sticking to my roots with what I eat!
As a vegetarian, I love encouraging my audience to eat clean, and to cook with natural ingredients--and where possible--eat as plant based as possible. Things I’ve recently been enjoying making on repeat that bring me back to my culture are Gajar ka Halwa (Sweet Carrot Pudding), traditional Sabzi’s (cooked vegetables in ghee and South Asian spices), and so much more!
--Malvika Sheth, Stylebymalvika
I often improvise by, for example, substituting one ingredient for another. Whether this occurs willingly or by accident, the result is often the creation of a new dish, sometimes better than the original.
I’m thrilled by a fine outdoor market filled with the season's produce, seafood and meat. I wander around, dreamily, until dishes start to occur to me based on what looks good. And while I couldn’t do this right away--I needed to learn some basic techniques—I get the most fun from a meal I’ve created based on what's available, not a preconception.
I’ve had to rely on invention because in this age of Covid-19, not everything is always available. While this may sound like a bummer, I get excited, too, when I have limited ingredients (although, not too limited) that force me to use my imagination.
I read recipes for inspiration, but never follow them to the letter because I get bored cooking by numbers. All of this is not to say I just make stuff up, but rather, regard food products with a French lens formed by my training in France.
I love the French language and French culture and food—not just the cream and butter stuff—and delight in preparing a classic country lunch or elegant dinner--the tricks are the same.
--James Peterson, jimcooks.com