Why I Cook. Part I.

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Why I Cook. Part I.

I now have a professional excuse to read food blogs (more on that later). A post by Michael Ruhlman last week about why people cook, or do not cook has kept me ruminating this week. And then Culinate.com featured a piece about eating-in and solicited comments from readers about memorable experiences of staying home and cooking instead of opting for take-out or going out to eat.

I can think of dozens of reasons why I cook but I think the fundamental one is that I love preparing food for the people in my life. I started cooking at a very young age, in part because my mother suffered from severe migraines. When she was laid up, I often cooked for my siblings and father. And even though I remember those days without my mother bustling about and taking care of us, as quiet, sad, and just wrong, I also remember the joy and pride with which I served dinner. From then on, preparing food became the go-to-gift for all occasions.

And then there’s just the everyday cooking, the nightly dinners that are so part of my routine that if I don’t cook for two or three nights I start feeling a little antsy. It’s not that I don’t love to go out to eat. Eating out is in fact one of the things I miss most about my pre-child life. However, since we don’t  go out much any more, I have daily opportunities to enjoy the process. And I have a most appreciative eater in my husband, and more often that not, in my son as well. My son recently turned three, which was a great reason to bake cinnamon rolls, muffins, a chocolate birthday cake, and lots of savory snacks too.

Today, my kitchen looked like a production kitchen. I had a few hours to myself and the result was a double batch of muffins and a triple batch of granola. Now we’re stocked for after-school-snacks and breakfasts for two weeks.

The second batch of muffins was baking and the kitchen smelled of cinnamon and I was wrist-deep in granola, oily hands covered with pumpkin and sunflower seeds and oats, and loving it. I love the process. I love the smells and the toasty clumps I nibble as soon as the granola is out of the oven. I love the creativity. (I have become a bit of a pathological substituter–sometimes because I don’t have  all the ingredients, but sometimes also because I like to tinker with the original.) And I do like to eat, so the consumption part is a joy too.

Speaking of results and creativity, the granola I made today was inspired by a recipe from Lottie + Doof , one of my favorite food blogs.  I’ve been making this variation for several months now and it illustrates another reason I love to cook. I could never afford to buy this kind of granola at the store. With a few tweaks to the original recipe (I omit the pecans and use applesauce for part of the olive oil called for) I can make six pounds of granola for about $15 by buying products in bulk from Azure Standard and making it myself (active time 10 minutes!)

These are just a few of the reasons why I cook. I’d love to hear why you do or don’t!

Granola (inspired by Lottie + Doof who adapted it from Early Bird Granola)

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
  • 1 cup coconut chips
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • generous 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300°F.
Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well combined. Mix honey, maple syrup, olive oil and applesauce in another bowl and then stir into dry ingredients. Spread granola mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until granola is toasted, about an hour. It should be nice and golden brown. Remove granola from oven and let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

4 Responses to “Why I Cook. Part I.”

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  1. Danica Fierman says:

    First of all, I love that you cook because as your friend, I often benefit from you doing what you love! I cook because I love creating something that will not only nourish the people I love but maybe bring them joy or surprise or a sense of being cared about. When I cook, I often forget the things I am stressed out about and I love the near instant gratification of following a process and achieving the goal at the end.

    And then there’s the fact that I also love to eat!

  2. Erin says:

    I adore your blog. I cook because it brings me closer together with my family. My husband and I often cook together. Not only do we get to spend a couple hours alone together, but in the end we enjoy a fabulous meal, usually a great bottle of wine, and praise each other for our respective talents. Now that we are parents, we have begun cooking with our 19 month old son. Sometimes he initiates cooking by grabbing a couple bowls, climbing up on a kitchen chair at our big farm table, and pouring make-believe ingredients into them while saying, “And now…and now…and now (apparently my mantra before each recipe step).” This behavior alone has inspired quite a few batches of brownies. Cooking allows people to share their hearts, and that’s why my family cooks together.

  3. Erin, thank you so much for your comment. I can picture the “And now.. . .and now. . . “) exactly. Your story about cooking with your husband reminded me of cooking together with my husband long before we had a child, something we haven’t done for year and should do again. Thanks for reading my blog. I’m so glad you enjoy it.

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