Cooking · Creativity

Cooking as Art

I believe that any act that involves creative thinking can be considered art, and cooking is no exception.

I’ve always likened cooking to my other bad habit – writing. With writing, I take a plot, a setting, a couple of characters, mix them all together and see what happens. Oftentimes, it’s something good. Occasionally I have to throw it in the trash and move on to the next project.

Cooking is the essentially the same thing. I take a handful of ingredients, toss them in a pot, add heat and seasonings, and hope that it’s edible. Oftentimes, it turns out tasty. Occasionally I have to throw it all in the trash and promise myself I’ll never do that again.

In both cases, it takes creative thinking to get things to turn out the way I want them.

I’m not a professionally-trained chef, although I did work in the kitchen in a couple of restaurants back in the day. I learned to cook through necessity. I was a bachelor for a while, living alone in a one-room efficiency. I had a tiny dorm fridge, a tiny gas range, and a toaster oven. Not much to work with, but living alone and trying to make ends meet on minimum wage meant that I needed to get creative. Besides, eating out three meals a day was far beyond my means.

My first meals weren’t much, but they kept me from starving. My go-to dish was boxed mac and cheese with a can of tuna and half a can of sweet peas. Arguably healthy, definitely filling. I found out that I could double the recipe and eat off it for a couple of days. There was also grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of tomato soup. The soup was canned, but I’d get creative with the grilled cheese. Sometimes it was American or Cheddar, maybe a Gouda if it was on sale. I also learned that I could melt butter, mix in a few herbs, then chill it and have herbed butter. That was a game changer.

After a while I discovered that the women I dated really appreciated it when I cooked. Like, REALLY appreciated it. I got some recipes from coworkers, my mom, and even broke down and bought my first cook book. It’s been thirty years now, but I still have my dog-eared copy of the Fannie Farmer cookbook. Easy to follow recipes, good info about the basics…it basically was my starter cookbook.

And yes, my ability to cook is what endeared my partner to me. Our first official date was me cooking her Chicken Chablis. I also helped that she can’t cook. At all. And yes, she’ll be the first to admit it. In fact, after her two attempts to return the favor, we both agreed that she’s no longer allowed anywhere near the kitchen unless she acting as a taste tester. It’s really for the best.

As a side note here, I do want to lodge an official complaint against some of the professional chefs out there. There’s a divide between chefs and home cooks. I’m in the latter category, obviously, but I want to state that I take offense when I watch a cooking show and hear the chef say something like, “Oh, that’s something a home cook would do.” As if I’m some moron who has trouble boiling water or something. No, I didn’t go to culinary school and I have’t worked in a Michelin Star restaurant, but I believe I’m damn good in the kitchen. I can pull random items out of the pantry and make a tasty meal out of it.

Sure, I occasionally used canned soup as a base for meals, and I also use a slow cooker a couple of times a month. But I also get compliments from the people I share food with. I get asked to make things for events, like office parties and holiday get-togethers. It seems to me that if people are asking me to cook for them, then I must be doing something right. Right?

At some point in the near future I plan to start uploading some cooking videos to my YouTube channel. Nothing fancy. I plan on sharing recipes that I enjoy making, stuff that’s fun to make and reasonably healthy. I’ll share tips, things I’ve learned, and hopefully inspire others to try their hand. I don’t expect to offer any revolutionary advice or insight…this is going to be like my podcast, a labor of love and a creative outlet.

As I wrote above, anything that makes you think creatively is an act of art. Doesn’t matter if you’re cooking dinner for your family or writing the next Great American Novel, creativity is creativity.

RB

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