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Is your cooking an expression of love or do you just like to cook? - Reposted from Home Cooking

  • j

I always hear about cooking as a way of showing love and care for friends and family and I think I am somehow selfish and lacking because I primarily cook because I obsess about food and ingredients. I'll make a special dessert or dinner that my husband or daughter loves once in a while but much, much more often I cook something because I found incredible apples or beautiful lemons or glistening fish. Or because I feel like getting my hands into dough. Or just because I like how the house smells when beef is braising.

Then last night I was reading Marlena De Blasi's book A Thousand Days in Venice and she says, "For me, food is far beyond the metaphors for love and sentiment and 'communication.' I do not demonstrate affection with food. Less noble that that, I cook because I love to cook, because I love to eat, and if someone is near who also loves to eat, all the better."

So, thankfully I realize I am not the only one. And I wonder if other home cooks cook for love of people or cook for love of cooking?

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  1. Love to cook and it is a creative outlet too

    2 Replies
      1. re: Candy

        Same for me - love to cook and experiment.

      2. I love to cook for the woman that I love. Most weekends I make Sunday breakfeast and dinner. I love to experiment with food. (And because she loves that I cook, she always tells me its delicious!)

        1 Reply
        1. re: RichK

          lol, i wish my man would cook for me... he does not cook, not even a scrambled egg. but as you like to cook for the woman you love, i love to cook for the man i love. so to answer the OP's question, which makes one think, i would have to say both cooking is an expression of love through the love of cooking. i absolutely love to have dinner parties for no reason other than gathering together people i care about to wine and dine and be merry. the simple pleasures of life...

        2. Junie, When my mother passed away, the only item I requested from the family estate was her cast iron frying pan. Everytime I use that pan, I answer both your questions.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Leper

            Now that brings a tear :(
            My Mom just died and I treasure her cast iron and old recipe books.

            1. re: Leper

              So true- I have my grandmothers cast iron pans, and also the big yellow bowl she used to make her wonderful bread pudding. Every time I use them, I think of her and the wonderful things we used to cook together when I was a kid.

              1. re: Leper

                And don't forget aprons. I have a bunch from my grandmother.

                1. re: Leper

                  I have a set of colanders that were my grandmother's and an old pine cutting board charred on one edge that was my great grandmother's that I use every night as well as a bread knife she brought from the old country (Scotland). I often think of the countless times these simple objects have been handled through the years; to me they are more precious than the Crown Derby china that was also theirs...

                2. It has more to do with your "love language" I think, or how you most easily express yourself. I express love most easily by "doing" things for people. Also, I love to cook, so often I express my love by cooking.
                  My 2 cents

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Spencer

                    Ditto-- a delicious Sunday dinner is easier for me than telling everyone how I feel about them.

                    Even when I am cooking for myself, it is an act of love. I grew up eating the horrible cooking of one parent, and both my parents were very heavy, as was I until my mid-teens. It took a long time to see cooking and eating as an enjoyable and health-affirming activity, one by which I could literally and figuratively nourish myself. It's a creative outlet, too, and I enjoy the process, but for me the whole point is the nourishment the end result gives.

                    glutenfreegirl.com has a great post from yesterday (9/27) about this same topic. She says it much better than I ever could.

                  2. That's a good question. I love to cook, the same as some people like to play golf, garden or clean house; the reason is only because the end product is going to be enjoyed by somebody else. I was just thinking about it the other day, as my uncle is very sick (terminal), and memories of my Italian grandmother popped up; if you stopped by any time day or night, she would pull out 10 or 15 different things to eat, even though she lived by herself! You can't feel more welcome than that. It was like her saying "I was hoping you'd stop by". And I'm obsessive like that, even though we don't have a lot of drop in guests anymore. I could make a 20 course meal right now if I had to, and it makes me happy.

                    1. It's a kind of selfish pleasure for me. I do it pretty well, and I enjoy it I think more than I enjoy anything else I'd discuss in public, and mostly I enjoy getting better at it. It pleases me to feed people food that pleases them - I'd rather share the food than not, preferably with my wife, family and a few friends at a time (though giant feasts have been fun, too). But I'm just as willing to cook for myself alone, especially as I can be more adventurous, and use ingredients that Tania hates, like eggplant. Of course, if you put the question another way, I'm not sure I could tell you exactly where simple pleasure ends and love begins... which may have to do with getting old.

                      1. Why do I cook?

                        Well, I didn't follow my early dreams to become an actor because I was afraid I might not have enough talent; I left college in the 60s, when I got the message to tune in and drop out; and I've been an executive secretary for 40 years - not what a lot of people would consider a "real" career.

                        As it turns out, though, I do have talent - and good instincts - in the kitchen. And, because I do it well, I love to do it. The response from my husband and others is always fabulous and that makes me feel good about myself and my abilities. My nieces come to me for cooking lessons. We almost never hear, "no thanks," when we invite folks to dinner.

                        So I'll never get a standing ovation on Broadway - that's okay. I've gotten several in my dining room and that's just great.

                        1. Both really, but if I had to lean towards one, I would say I now cook for the sheer love of cooking, experimenting w/ new techniques and ingredients, and the art of plating. I'm pretty lucky that my husband isn't fussy and will eat (and usually enjoy) anything I put before him, as our diet is pretty much based on my current whims and obsessions...like when I dragged home 40 lbs. of farm-picked tomatoes.

                          That said, most nothing makes me happier than cooking for friends and family. When we have guests stay over, they never want to leave b/c they feel like they're at a B&B w/ good homemade food and a well-stocked fridge and pantry that are tailored to their likes. That's important to me...

                          I think another layer for me is cooking for self-esteem and the affection and respect of others. I'm not musical, I'm not athletic, I'm not a millionare, but I can make magic in the kitchen.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Carb Lover
                            c
                            Caitlin McGrath

                            "I think another layer for me is cooking for self-esteem and the affection and respect of others. I'm not musical, I'm not athletic, I'm not a millionare, but I can make magic in the kitchen."

                            That's definitely part of it for me. Otherwise, it's about enjoying cooking and creating delicious things, with some exceptions; there are certain occasions when I want to make a certain dish or thing I know someone will particularly appreciate or find comforting where I think it's an expression of love above just love of cooking or anything else.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              I'm with you and Carb Lover. I love the experience of cooking from deciding on a menu to shopping for ingredients to the actual preperation of the dish(s). I don't ritualize it but I thoroughly enjoy the process. I do love to cook for others but I have realized that I will not cook for people I don't like. For them I order in. (There are circumstance when the unloved cannot be avoided).

                          2. i think there are so many reasons people love to cook, and that those reasons also change and grow over time. my grandmother taught me to cook when i was little, so there's always that positive association for me. i love to eat, and i love learning about other cultures through food. i love creating (or helping create) a big meal where friends and family linger for hours over wine and good food. i also find cooking and preparing food therapeutic--time alone, mind calm, attention quietly focused. i also love vietnamese summer rolls, and where i live i won't ever get to eat them unless i make them myself.

                            different people express love, as they understand it, in different ways. feeding people is one way. but loving to cook inherently implies a degree of selfishness. i admit i enjoy having people rave over something i've cooked. who wouldn't? and we're chowhounds, right? so we must derive pleasure from cooking, or we wouldn't be here!

                            1. I love to cook for other people - I enjoy both the pleasure they derive from my cooking, and the "technical" process/sense of achievement I get from tackling new and complicated menus. Have to confess that I enjoy the compliments I get. I also enjoy just being able to cook tasty, healthy meals for my husband and myself during the week. That said, I am *terrible* about cooking for myself when my husband is away - I graze, eat left overs, etc. So, I have to conclude that a lot of my reason for cooking is to give pleasure for others, though I did learn to cook originally by cooking for myself. Lastly, I think I also enjoy the evolution that I've gone through as a cook - first learning the basics, then tackling more complicated dishes/menus by following the recipes to the "T", now being more creative and guided more by what looks good at the store and then coming home and cooking it.

                              I do wish I'd figure out a way to enjoy cooking just for myself ...

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: MMRuth

                                M.M. I strongly suggest you purchase a copy of "Come To Your Senses" by Stanley H. Block, MD. Follow his advice for increasing sensory awareness. Cooking for yourself will offer you incredible rewards. You'll also enjoy good restaurant food and friends much more as well. This is a great book and highly recommended to all Chowhounds who want to expand their enjoyment of food and life.

                                1. re: Leper

                                  May I ask why? Don't get me wrong - I very much enjoy good food - whether in restaurants or food that I prepare at home - I guess I just thing of myself as a bit lazy when it comes to cooking for one.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    MM, The book will provide the answer with remarkable clarity. You'll love using the knowledge in other areas of your life as well. It's terrific.

                                2. re: MMRuth

                                  i usually see cooking for myself (when dh is away) as an opportunity to eat things he wouldn't necessarily want--usually things that are really really spicy hot, or tofu. never anything too complicated, though.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    Hi Ruth, I cook just for myself most of the time. When it gets boring, I splurge, which you could do when your husband is away. I find I can easily afford something really special for one person. A lobster, a perfect lamb chop, four large day boat scallops. I always keep my eyes open for my next special treat. If you like wine, buy an appropriate bottle.

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      I was wondering if I was the only one who felt this way! I love cooking, but it's mostly for other people. When I'm on my own, I rarely do anything more than graze the leftovers or crack a raw egg over some hot rice or even make a box (!) of mac & cheese. Plus, if I'm just cooking for myself, I'm far less likely to make a healthy, balanced meal.

                                      When I have an 'audience', however (mrs. ricepad and the little pads count as an audience), things are different, and I'll frequently make a production out of it, but even then, it's not 'for' them, I don't think. I think it's for me, and how I feel when I know how much they're enjoying it. It ain't selfless...it's totally selfish.

                                      (This was a bit of an eye-opener to answer!)

                                    2. Cooking means a number of different things to me. I began as a way to assert my adolescent independence and it flowered into a source of creative self-expression. Cooking became a conduit to other cultures and attitudes. As my children grew up, my cooking was key in drawing them home for dinner and keeping us bound as a family.

                                      I am the one responsible for the menu and cooking of meals for all others (family, friends, and visiting dignitaries) and find the process a mixture of "performance anxiety" and raucous celebration. Of course, playing chef does allow me to be safely sequestered in the kitchen and out of the "line of fire" from in-laws and contentious visitors.

                                      1. I find it so different when cooking for someone else. For myself half the time I just wind up eating carrots and hummus, or something. But for someone else (i.e. a SPECIAL someone else) I don't mind spending extra on quality ingredients, poring over cookbooks to find the right combination of dishes, and it's worth it all to hear her sigh as I place the plates on the table.

                                        But that's just me. I recognize my cooking ability is limited to when I want to share it with someone, and that this is certainly not always the case. I think it comes down more to a psychological desire to take care of someone. Which is a topic for some other message board.

                                        1. The cooking that I do as an expression of love depends on the premise that I love to cook.

                                          So: All the cooking that I do is motivated by the fact that I love food--I love creating wonderful taste and smell and texture and visual sensations from beautiful ingredients. Cooking for loved ones is a subset of that.

                                          (And, btw, the people who say you are selfish are crazy. My mother hates to cook, so I would never ask her to do it for me to show her love--she does that in other ways, by doing things that she loves and in turn shares with me. But, she does love to eat good food, so when I cook for her, it is my way of doing something that I love and sharing it with her. Then again, I don't believe that love requires "sacrifices.")

                                          1. Both. I love feeding people and making them feel good...or better if they're feeling bad. It is a way to show love.

                                            It's also a joy to cook for people and receive compliments. Ego. To be known as someone who will always make a great meal. To have high attendance at holiday parties because people know they will be well fed.

                                            But, it's also a way to show love to myself. I absolutely will cook for just myself and it will be according to a thought I had that day, or what's good in the market. Or if I need comfort. (buttered noodles) or want to feel healthy.( A brothy soup with lots of vegetables). It usually won't be complex, but it will be thought out based on my mood and not just leftovers or nibbling.

                                            In fact, sometimes when I'm really tired, I'll cruise the prepared foods at quality stores (we're not talking safeway here) and I'll usually end up going home and making something simple instead because the thought of eating something that is dry or tasteless or tastes like the refrigerator (as even high quality prepared foods often do) makes me feel incredibly depressed and like I'm not taking care of myself. I don't know. It's kind of a compulsion really. I will go out of my way to avoid eating something mediocre. Gosh, I guess I must be a chowhound!

                                            1. I cook for myself . I love all of it , the whole process , going to the farmers market , or the butcher , or the cheese store . Growing the herbs in my yard , my tomatos , my basil . my thyme , all of it . I know I can kick ass in my own kitchen , and I love to share it with other people. But I cook because I like to , because it makes me feel good . If no one was around to taste the fruits of my labor , they would still taste just as good . But it is gratifiying to see the looks on other peoples faces when my creations blow their minds . In a way , I cook because I have to , the food makes me do it . Someone has to keep the old ways alive , someone has to know how to can , and pickle , and make real sauerkraut . My hand goes up , I'll do it .