Do you find cooking to be relaxing? Fun? Exciting? If you're a fan of Alton Brown and his Good Eats show, you can likely answer 'yes' to at least one of those questions. I found myself giving conflicting answers when I read the article Cooking Away Stress by Judy Hevrdejs of the Chicago Tribune this morning. It made me ponder: Do I really enjoy cooking and does it help me relax? My first reaction was 'Heck no! I'm tired of trying to crank out meals for my family and scrape together a menu and go shopping twice a week.'
In the article, Alton Brown describes the act of cooking as very relaxing and a big stress reliever. This level of enjoyment obviously lends itself to his endless creativity with Good Eats. Alton mentions, "Slicing, dicing and chopping — the rhythm of that is something I enjoy and find relaxing. But I also really, really, really like to knead dough. I like the physical action of getting my hands into it. … I find that physically rewarding." This is the essence of a hobby and one that somebody truly enjoys. Whether gardening, woodworking, or cranking a wrench on your old car's engine; we can all find a bit of solace in losing ourselves in a project for fun. Thinking of cooking in this light made me think twice about my initial reaction. Maybe I do really enjoy being in the kitchen.
When given the time by myself to cook I treat it as a hobby, even if I am preparing a meal for others. I love trying new recipes or just experimenting with what I have in the fridge. I get excited when I pull out my shiny Wusthof blade from its case and going to work at the cutting board; all the while managing two or three things on the stove. I get into my element and find my groove. That is what I call the Joy of Cooking. It's not without frustration, there are a few dishes that have gone directly to the garbage disposal, but the majority of the time I find satisfaction with the end result. There is something more though. When I can share my cooking with others, there is real pleasure when they say how good it is or ask me how I put it together. Looking back on yesterday afternoon and I picture the look of delight on my grandmother's face and my daughter and I expressed how good everything tasted.
Good Eats has been a staple in my TV diet for years, not only because it is entertaining, but because I'm always learning something. What I have learned this week is not about losing weight or what foods I should eat, but rather that if you want to get something more out of life or to reach a goal you really do need to focus a lot of energy into the process of change. Alton did so with with his diet and I can see that I need to do the same when I think about cooking. Chasing the next meal will never get me any satisfaction, but better planning and taking a little bit more time to focus on the actual cooking process I enjoy so much is a goal I need to work towards. On that note I'll leave you with one more article quote from Alton Brown:
"In my business, it's really easy to get to the point where you hate food and hate all cooking. Then I go cook eggs, and it's like wow, look at that little miracle. Look at everything that eggs do. To me that's a magic trick."