In one of my previous editorials I discussed why I have such a fascination with music, and in that article I noted that I lack all forms of artistic ability save public speaking.
I would like to revise that statement because there is one way that I allow myself to express my artistic emotions.
If you read The Bengal regularly then I am sure you are no stranger to the cooking and cocktail concoctions pieces that runs quite frequently in the Life section of our paper. That’s not just because it is an easy way to fill space in an emergency, I genuinely enjoy making those.
I discovered that I loved cooking at a young age. I found that out by being in the kitchen with my grandma peeling carrots and potatoes, cutting out biscuits and rolling out pie dough. Those are great memories that I am certain have something to do with why I enjoy cooking so much.
However, it is more than just fond memories. There is a real sense of accomplishment when you set yourself the task of cooking an entire meal for other people, have it all come out at the same time AND taste good. It is exhausting but also exhilarating. It’s a way to put your skills to the test on the clock with real consequences.
Another amazing thing about cooking is that once you have been doing it for a certain period of time you begin to develop a palate and you think of things in a different way.
Like a seasoned chess player (pun intended) can recognize patterns and moves at just a glance, and there is an almost instinctual decision on which move to make; you start to cook that way.
I absolutely love to walk into the kitchen with one or two things in mind, a protein and main side dish, and then just start. Do I want spicy? Yes, so just grab this and that and throw it into the pot. Did that look like enough paprika? No not quite, just a dash more.
It is a very special experience when you walk into the kitchen with almost nothing and then walk out with something that tastes amazing. If anybody asks you what you cooked your answer is just, “I don’t know, just something I made.”
That actually makes writing those cooking concoctions difficult. I always try and give you guys original recipes, that includes the cocktail ones too, but when you are just cooking by the seat of your pants it is really hard to remember what you did and how much of everything you put in.
The very first recipe I wrote for The Bengal was my one-pan chicken fajitas. That was just something I threw together one night and I remember how happy I was with myself for just making that. But then I made that damn thing four times before I finally had a recipe card written out with the right amount of everything.
But my absolute favorite thing about cooking is simply the food itself, and I don’t just mean that I love to eat, which I do.
Food is such an amazing thing. When I look back over my life the things that I remember the best and most fondly involve food.
What makes it so special is the fact that it is a basic necessity of life; everyone has always had to eat and they always will. And because of that, over the thousands of years that humans have existed it leeched its way into our very identity as humans.
What we eat, how we eat and when we eat are all intertwined with our culture and society. If you want to get to know someone, eat with them. If you want to understand a culture, eat their food.
Going back to those favorite memories I was discussing just a little bit ago; the most amazing experience of my life was that I spent two weeks in Shanghai, China when I was 16 years old. There were countless amazing things that happened on that trip, but the best moments were when my family and the group of Chinese hosts all sat down to eat.
But out of all of those, the one moment that is the best of the best was when they cooked for us. Eating real chinese food in China is great; but having someone cook for you is so much better.
There is an intimacy involved when you are cooked for. The dishes and the recipes that someone cooks for you are the things they grew up eating. Whether whoever is cooking means to or not they are saying, ‘Let me share my childhood with you. Come sit at the table with my mother and my grandmother.’