I was asked the other day if I always knew how to cook and I answered as I always do, “Yes, I think my mom thought my brother and I would never find wives so she taught us both how to cook.” Which is a joke of course, because we’re both married and we both know how to cook pretty well. My brother went on to become a chef and I’m an award-winning cook having competed all over the United States. But it did begin with mom teaching her boys to know their way around a kitchen. It wasn’t always like this because Mom didn’t always know how to cook well however through the years, she developed into perhaps the best in the whole family. I remember my Uncle Mickey asking for Mom’s Carrot Cake every time we would go to visit.
When asked, “Why Cook?” I’m sure my mom, in her 20’s would answer, “It’s a necessity.” I heard a story about when my parents were getting married and my mom asked one of my aunts what her future husband liked to eat. “He likes hamburgers so if you can cook that you’ll be fine” or something to that effect. As with many newlyweds, cooking was a necessity. Back when I was growing up, people just didn’t go out to eat like they do today. Going to a restaurant was something a family only did for special occasions or after church on Sundays. Every great chef who attributes their love for cooking to their grandmothers or mothers has necessity to thank for it. Cooking was simply to take care of the family. But just because it starts here doesn’t mean it has to remain here.
From this necessity grew a genuine enjoyment for cooking. She began to try different recipes not just to feed her family but because she found enjoyment in it. When she would visit her parents, they would make requests for her to cook biscuits & gravy or the carrot cake I mentioned earlier, she loved doing this. Food service was always something mom did through my life. She spent a great deal of my childhood mainly as a waitress then as my brother and I grew, she was a head cook (we call them chefs theses days) at a small hotel in Ashland. Here again, she got a job in food out of necessity which grew enjoying it. It wasn’t necessarily the job or the work in a restaurant, but the task of cooking, well that brought her joy.
Later in life I watched this go from something which brought her joy to a passion in her life. I didn’t see this at the time because I was too busy living the busy life of a teenager but looking back on it, I totally see the passion she had cooking. It was no longer just something to put on the plate, she would create dishes to see how they would come together. A couple years ago a friend of mine sent me copies of recipes mom had created or adapted for her church cookbook. These recipes arose from her passion of cooking and now my daughter has them put up for safe keeping. Oh and one of those recipes helped us to a top 10 finish in the world.
Which brings me to the final point when it comes to “why cook.” A year before my mom passed away, she had come here to visit in Florida around Christmas time. While here, she and my daughter basically took over the kitchen. This story I’ve told before in this blog, but it was here a legacy was born. Well, maybe the legacy was born when she taught me and my brother to cook, but it was in this moment the next generation benefited from years of meals, some great and some, well you get the idea. But no one sits down and says, “This will be my legacy” and then just set out to do it. Legacy happens when people aren’t looking in the moment but begin to see it when they look back. It’s in this moment a grandmother cooking with her granddaughter realizes, she is leaving her something most valuable.
When asked, “Why cook?” somewhere on this page you will find your answer. However, I think if you are reading this then you are past the “necessity” stage and somewhere in the middle. So, ask yourself, “Why Cook?”