Michael Ruhlman: Why I Cook

I heard the fabulous Michael Ruhlman speak at Blogher Food 2010 in San Francisco last year.  He was inspiring, honest and accessible.  His love of, and knowledge of, food is vast.  A couple years ago, Ruhlman wrote a piece on his blog outlining all of the reasons he cooks.  He encouraged others to do so as well.  Here’s my go at it.

Why do I cook?  Well, as Ruhlman stated, in this day and age, it is self-defense.  Goodness only knows what is added to our food these days.  I’m a control freak.  I like to know what I’m putting into my body.  That’s a great reason to cook.

Like Ruhlman (he states he began cooking at age 9), I began cooking as a child.  When I was in the 4th grade, I recall coming home everyday for lunch, turning on the electric pullout stove in our kitchen and frying up a kosher beef frank –that would be called a hotdog nowadays.  My parents both worked full time and I learned to take care of myself early on.

By 5th grade we had moved to a new house around the corner.  We had a yellow enamel gas stove.  I came home from school for lunch almost every day and opened up a can of re-fried beans, heated them, then grated orange cheddar cheese on top.  By high school, all of my friends came over for lunch just about everyday.  I made them brown rice with refried beans, salsa and cheese.  I also loved to bake cookies (they were not the gluten free kind in those days, prior to my celiac diagnosis).  By the time I was a junior in high school I baked chocolate chip cookies and sold them at the tennis club where I taught tennis lessons.  I was a busy girl back then!

I still love to cook.  My two sons, as well as all of the boys in our neighborhood come to my house when they want to create a special baked good.  Last week it was gluten free organic ice cream cake that the gang and I made from scratch.  Sometimes it’s cookies, chocolate bark or cupcakes.  Other days it’s salad.  The gang loves my gluten free Asian Salad Dressing and gobbles down all of their salad when I serve this dressing over greens.  I love baking with the boys, and feeding them, it is so much fun!

Like Ruhlman, I cook now because:
-I find it relaxing and meditative
-Cooking is great physical activity after hours of reading, researching, and writing
-I like to eat fresh, wholesome food
-It’s a way for me to give to family and friends
-I’m a Jewish mother so it is impossible not to (we like to feed people)
-It reminds me of good times in the kitchen with my mother and my bubby

Some reasons not to cook:
-I don’t have time
-I don’t know how
-I’m tired

According to Ruhlman:

All of these are perfectly adequate reasons not to cook.  I sometime use them myself.  But they’re not reasons to never cook.  The only good reasons never to cook are these: cooking gives me no pleasure, and eating doesn’t either.  (This is genuinely the case for some people, and I’ll lay odds they’re not reading this post). Fast food is cheaper than fresh food and, as I am at the poverty level, I have little choice.  (The saddest reason of all, and yet another reason for those who can cook, to cook.  The more people who buy good food help to lower the price of that food through demand.)

First, so many thanks go to Michael Ruhlman for all of his wisdom and inspiration –he’s a great teacher when it comes to food and cooking.

Now it’s time for me to get back to the kitchen.  I’m going to be making a yummy chicken stew since it’s so cold outside, and some delicious gluten free cake pops since the Super Bowl is coming up!  What are you going to make?


34 responses to “Michael Ruhlman: Why I Cook”

  1. I don’t especially like to cook, but I love to bake. I keep that at a minimum now because I need to eat healthy foods and limit the sugar intake. I enjoy cooking more when I’m cooking with my husband. We have such a good time in the kitchen working together. This usually happens when we have dinner guests. Then it’s fun to get creative. Elena’s cookbook and website are my favorite places to find quick, easy, and healthy recipes. Thanks Elana!:)

  2. I read this post of Michael’s last year and found it so thought-provoking. I took some time to think about it, and I wrote a post myself. I love yours as well – and I love how you sum it up with a list. :) I’m a list person naturally.

  3. Fantastic post Elana, thanks for sharing this! My cooking was about like yours (we even had an electric pull out stove!) and for much the same reason at a young age. But I didn’t truly start learning how to cook until ten years ago … more out of necessity. Now I realize you can’t truly love food, until you know how to make it and what goes into it.

    I love Ruleman’s point about supporting good food so that the prices go down and the demand goes up. I couldn’t agree more with this. Thanks again.

  4. I was really not liking to cook or bake because of gluten free ….until I came upon your website Elana! I want to know what I am eating and also to be able to eat baked goods and great breakfasts, lunches, and dinners( suppers)! THANK YOU ELANA!

  5. i can’t remember NOT cooking- i remember being 5 or six and mixing meatloaf for my mother. and by seven, i was making pizza from scratch excepting for my mother’s homemade sauce. after that- no food intimidated me.

    by middle school and high school my sisters and i would plan elaborate multi-course meals where it became apparent that i would do the meat/veggie dishes, and my sister would bake. i did not love baking like i loved other forms of cooking.

    i was also a total foodie from a kid, and when given packaged cake at a birthday party, spat it out and declared “it tastes like plastic. this is not cake.” oy- my poor mother.

    but of course, when it came to going gluten-free in 2001, i at least had the very great advantage of cooking all my food and truly understanding gluten-free and how to translate that into delicious, wholesome and nourishing foods.

    now, as a mother of 3 with number 4 on the way, with a gluten-free, whole foods, raw milk, nothing from a package family- my 4 year old son will stir the grass-fed beef taco meat, browning the onions, mixing in the garlic, and then monitoring the meat. i hope to pass on this gift of cooking- for his and his own family’s health. and i’m thrilled to be passing on the gift of good health to my own family in a way that only a greek-american mother with a fanatical bent for good-tasting healthy food can!

    Thanks for making me think about why i do what i do!

  6. I love to cook and bake because it’s very satisfying to be able to make something that turns out well and that my husband and I can enjoy. When we can, we also cook together and it’s really nice to be able to do something that we both find relaxing and enjoy together! Plus, I LOVE food, so it would be a shame if I didn’t cook!

  7. Oh, Elana, thanks as always for the time you put into sharing. I also began cooking early and loved the freedom and control of preparing my own food, as well as sharing with others. For me, it is the ultimate expression of love to feed people. Most of all, I cook and bake because I can’t NOT do it!

  8. Cooking is an excellent outlet for me and one that you can share with others. I have a very stressful day job, and I find it relaxing to come home and prepare a meal to share. It’s a great way to unwind.

  9. I, like yourself, find it very satisfying to cook and bake for my family. My bananas were going bad so I decided to make some gluten free banana bread with chocolate chips.

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