I’ve always loved to cook. Since I was little. I have so many memories of cooking with my mom, my dad, my grandmother, with friends, and even by myself. It is an act of creation and transformation that – like all forms of expression – sometimes works out well, and sometimes doesn’t. But that’s ok, because the mistakes are what you remember and learn from… like when at age 9 I tried to wing a coffee spice cake without a recipe and added coffee grounds and whole cardamom pods to the batter. I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face after her first bite that was essentially: “how am I going to break it to my enterprising little girl that this is simply disgusting?!”. I’ve always been a culinary risk-taker, but the more risks you take, the better you get, right?!
Cooking is a creative activity in every sense of the word, as when you cook you create, you produce, and thus give life to something that didn’t exist before, at least not in that form. Each dish is a little piece of yourself.
And cooking takes on a whole different meaning when it is shared. Cooking is important because of people. Sharing food with others, be it family, friends, or even strangers, is utterly different than cooking for yourself – or by yourself.
Cooking for yourself is just not satisfying in the same way, no matter how delicious the food may be.
Sharing food and cooking with others is a more intimate interaction than one might think. With each dish we share, we are often unwittingly sharing our family heritage, our personal histories, a window into our priorities, our sensibilities, our understanding and opinion of the person we are sharing with… and of their tastebuds! The way we cook reveals the way we view the world.
The added meaning that comes from sharing food with others is not just a reward for generosity, or the pleasure derived from the compliments you may get (or the little adrenaline rush while you are waiting to see if people actually do like what you’ve made). Sharing food and cooking with others is about togetherness.
In this moment of “stay-at-home” orders, when we are yearning for the daily human interactions we would normally have with colleagues, casual acquaintances or even strangers, all of a sudden togetherness in any semblance is like a salve to our souls.
This is an odd time. So many people have time on their hands like they’ve never had before – and others are coming home from excruciating days at work seeking solace like they never did before. And cooking can be both an outlet and a distraction. So many people are trying their hand at making bread, homemade pasta and experimenting with cooking/creating like they never would have dreamed of before. In a way, we are all together in our separate kitchens, embarking on the same endeavors and experiments. I think there are 3 main trends in how we are cooking differently now that unite us: 1) we gravitate towards our own personal “comfort food”; 2) we are being more adventurous, and trying recipes that involve time and attention; and 3) we tend to pay more attention to waste, and to which foods are more “sustainable” for our pocketbooks, pantries, and the environment..
I consider my kitchen my “special place.” When I am sad, when I am angry, when I am afraid I find solace in cooking. When I am happy and satisfied, I try to share that through cooking. Suffice it to say, I have recently been cooking up a storm with and for my family. That has been my medicine.
By sharing food – and ideas on food – I hope to bring us together. Since for now we can’t eat together, let’s cook together. Each in their own kitchen.
Stay tuned and please share the link to my blog, as I will do regular updates with tons of recipes I’ve learned over the 22 years I’ve been in Italy – and finally have time to write down!