Creativity in the Kitchen

17 Mar

I admire achievement or skill in all creative endeavors, but there is one that I didn’t quite “get” for a long, long time: cooking.

Cooking is truly an art.  I love, love, love enjoying the results of it, when done well.   So much so that I can tell you about specific dishes I had years and years ago, they were that memorable to me.  Unfortunately, my appreciation for the act of cooking has come only recently.  

In my youth, I squandered the opportunity I had to learn from an excellent cook: my father.   He was an artist in the kitchen, making everything from shrimp creole to curried chicken to a to-die-for rib eye.  When we were living in the same household, I had no interest in cooking, or, truth be told, in listening to much of anything a parent had to say.  When I got older, I was too busy.  And I still wasn’t interested.  

Now I’m interested, but he’s gone. 

A few years ago, though, I started going to one of those commercial kitchens.  You know –  a place where they prep everything for you, and you just show up and throw all the ingredients together according to the recipe.  Then, you take the meals home, throw them in your freezer, and voila! you thaw out a restaurant quality meal every night and throw it in the oven.   (Notice all the “throwing”.)   I had found the answer to my prayers because what I hate the most about cooking is the prep work.  This made it so easy.  It was an ideal solution.

But something else happened along the way.  I learned how to cook. 

I learned what ingredients go well together, which flavors go with which, and the magic of lemon juice and zest.  I learned what effect an egg has in a batter, what “searing” and “blanching” mean, and much more.   It turns out, once you know the basics, it changes everything.  Not so different from painting.  Or drawing.  Or photography.  Or…you get the picture.

Now, I’m actually cooking a lot of things at home.  From scratch.  Because I enjoy it.   (Gasp!)  Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a beginner, but I can make quite a variety of dishes now.  I often try making new things, and without a recipe (because following a recipe is the second-most thing I hate about cooking.)  Surprisingly, my new dishes usually don’t go too awry.  

I’ve found that once we acquire some basic skills, and we are willing to fail here and there, we can really release our creativity.   And in being creative, there is joy.

“Sometimes, we need to exercise just a little elbow grease in any creative direction that we can find.” ~Julia Cameron

There is one thing of my dad’s I learned how to cook many years ago: spaghetti sauce.  I’ve been told it tastes like authentic New York Italian spaghetti sauce, which is a huge compliment in my book, particularly since we’re not from New York, or Italian.  I make it from scratch, the way he did, and even grow basil on the back porch because fresh basil makes all the difference.  I truly enjoy making it.   I don’t measure anything, I just know what ingredients are needed, and throw in a pinch of this and pinch of that, until it tastes just right.   I feel like an artist.  In the kitchen.

My dad would be so proud.

4 Responses to “Creativity in the Kitchen”

  1. charmingthemuse March 17, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    Ugh, cooking remains one of my biggest artistic blocks. I put off even grocery shopping because I detest having to make decisions about what meals I’ll be making. Maybe I should go to a Let’s Eat or the like to get jump started toward enjoying the process (and not just the product) since it worked so well for you, PJ. Who’s in?

  2. hostingthemuse March 18, 2011 at 6:22 am #

    I love this post. I’m like Tracey, I have cooking block. I really don’t enjoy it and I wish I did. My mother saids I’m an embarrassment to my culture. Because Puerto Ricans love there food. You inspire me to give it a least a try, I hope no one gets sick hahaha.

  3. ticklingthemuse March 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Okay, Peg, you KNOW I had to comment after I saw my favorite yummy pot of sauce!! Love that sauce! And you know, your father’s love of cooking is in you, so he’s not really gone.


  1. Embracing a Multi-Dimensional Life « - June 13, 2011

    […] I cook now – almost every night – which I didn’t do before (see my earlier post Creativity in the Kitchen.)  Does this list sound overwhelming?  For me, it’s not – it’s […]

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