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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

For the love of cooking

It’s a running joke at my dinner table that everyone loves Dad’s food, but he always finds something wrong with it. He loves it cooking and he’s good at it, too. He loves trying new recipes and experimenting. And he holds his food to an extremely high standard, hence the inside joke.

That’s why, somewhat non-traditionally, my dad did most of the cooking for as long as I can remember. My mom is on the opposite side of the spectrum, cooking occasionally, but feels it’s little more than a chore.

For the longest time, I fell kind of in the middle of my parents. I liked the idea of knowing how to cook, but when it came down to it, I lacked the love I needed to learn how to. I had a great cook to learn from, but no matter how much I hung around the kitchen during dinner time, it never stuck.

Then I had to learn.

I moved to Paris in January for my study abroad program and, finally, I simply had to learn. There were no dining halls or meal plans. Only a kitchen and a stipend that wouldn’t cover eating at restaurants all the time.

That first time walking into the Monoprix in the 14 arrondissement was a daunting moment. No shopping list, just vibes.

The first meal I made was some penne pasta with a piece of salmon. I under-seasoned the salmon, and the pasta was plain and almost flavorless, but from there, I was hooked.

Soon after, I learned how to make carbonara pasta. Pancetta (it’s supposed to be guanciale, but that’s hard to find), eggs and cheese are basically all you need. This was a special recipe because it was my girlfriend in Paris’ favorite meal. Anytime she would come over, I’d make it for us, and then we’d watch a movie or a show as we ate. Her smile was worth many times the effort it took to put together the simple dish.

Cooking has a special way of making people happy. Sharing a meal with someone is a unique kind of love. It’s taking care of someone. It’s an appreciation of their company.

Back in Paris, a good friend of mine was going through a tough time after receiving some rough family news. I had no idea, but that night, something compelled me to cook for everyone studying in Paris with me. He never left his room, but he later told me the quesadilla we took to his door helped him more than I could ever know.

I am by no means an incredible cook. Just last night I made the most underwhelming white rice I have made in a while. I have a lot to learn but the last few months have made me eager to practice. I have seen the ways that cooking can bring joy to those around me, and I’m chasing the feeling I get from putting a plate in front of my friends and loved ones.

But I can’t pretend my motives are purely altruistic. I have so much fun in the kitchen. I love the opportunities that I see when I open my fridge. I love learning new recipes and trying new things. Often, I do terribly that first time, but sometimes I nail it just right. I fill with pride when I sit down to eat something I’ve just spent time and effort making. I appreciate it that much more, knowing exactly what went into it.

So, make something you love and do it with pride. Ask your roommate or your best friend what their favorite dish is and share a homemade dinner. Learn to cook and do it with patience. Give yourself room to burn a few dishes and under-season a few salmons, I promise it’s worth it in the end.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.