Reflections on Cooking, Eating, and Storytelling

At the first Meal with MelRob, I asked my hosts to describe their relationship to eating and cooking, becoming saddened when I heard the consensus that often my companions felt that they had no time to cook regularly, that eating was often a necessity not an act of savoring in the life of a student. I wanted to articulate just why I enjoy the act of cooking and, in particular, social cooking ventures. I like to feed people because it’s a problem I can solve. What I mean is that life can be stressful, particularly for a student wrapped-up in schoolwork, job-work, extracurriculars, and college-related angst, all alongside other personal stressors. For me, cooking proves one of the small ways through which I feel accomplished on an everyday basis. Just think, students: No, you may not have started that eight-to-ten page paper due tomorrow, but you cooked a damn good meal that your roommates won’t forget.

Smiling, chatting over the main course - Southwestern Black Bean and Corn Chowder.

While I was cooking, I noticed how often I was telling stories about the ingredients, recipes, and food. Now, maybe this is because I am an English major and am generally convinced that everything has something to do with storytelling, narratives, etc., but maybe there is something more to this thought. Storytelling is one of the reasons using and eating local ingredients makes me swoon. I love knowing the story of the food I am relying on to produce delicious meals and sharing that story with those whom I am dining. I consider cooking to be a way of forging a relationship with my food and local food in particular allows me to establish a particularly intimate connection with food sustaining me. Thus, feeding others becomes a way of sharing stories and intimacy, all while giving the chef the satisfaction of creation.

People are also often daunted by cooking, feeling that the time and skills required are out of their reach. I only began really cooking on regular basis about a year and a half ago when I became a vegan. I purchased Vegan on the Cheap and started trying out recipes without any prior knowledge or experience. Cooking doesn’t have to be hard and that good cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming (thanks for teaching me this, Vegan on the Cheap). Also, failures in the kitchen do not denote the end of the world and, oh heyyy, they provide often hilarious stories as well as valuable learning opportunities for the most green and the most-seasoned chef alike. Follow recipes for now and you’ll be surprised when you begin to naturally stray and add twists of your own to the mix.

The second batch of Cranberry Salsa for the first Meal with MelRob was made by the hosts; the short list of ingredients and basic prep rendered it an easy and fast, yet complex-tasting creation.

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