I consider myself something of a decent home cook. I’ve spent enough hours in the last year or two watching cooking shows that I’d hope at least some of it has rubbed off on me.
Last weekend, I tried to make bread for the first time. I’ve never done anything with yeast, so I wasn’t sure quite how well it would go given my inexperience and bread’s reputation for being a rather complex task. Although, that perception may come entirely from all of the time I’ve spent watching the “Great British Baking Show.”
I found the simplest recipe I could for a basic, white loaf on Pinterest. After a brief detour of trying to find dough hooks for my hand mixer, which is much harder than it should be, I came out empty handed.
Then I got started on my bread and actually, despite my concerns, it was really pretty easy. It’s plenty time consuming having to wait for it to rise and certainly not something I’m going to start doing on a regular basis, but just the smell of freshly-baked bread in the house is worth the effort.
If someone was to make a candle that properly captured that smell, I would drive to every corner of New Mexico and buy them all.
What that draws me to cooking, or in this case, baking, is the sense of community it helps create. Since my family is in Colorado and I don’t get to see them very often, my friends here help me fill that void. Cooking for them is a foolproof way to bring everyone together and give us time to sit down and catch up that we might not get otherwise.
I definitely have that entertaining gene as well. I like having the apartment full of people, and being able to feed them is a way I can take care of everyone, which I really like being able to do.
Samin Nosrat, the author of “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” talks about this in her Netflix series, which I highly recommend. She talks about how cooking really isn’t about the food itself — it’s about what happens around the food. The conversation you have at the table, the experience of getting to cook a new recipe with someone, which is something I remember so vividly from my childhood. My mom has a recipe for a chicken and rice soup that she would make every winter, and I absolutely love it. I can make it myself now, but it’s not the same.
I remember on days I would come home and see the giant stock pot out and I knew that I was going to be spending the evening in the kitchen as she could. Getting to help with it, and being able to spend time with my mom while I was sneaking bites of chicken as she cut it up before a devoted audience consisting of me and our dog was the best part of the soup.
Then, when we sat down to eat it, I remember it tasting so much better when I helped. Not because anything was actually different, but because I knew that I had a hand in it, even if it was something as simple as putting the rice into the broth. That’s the power that food can have and why I think I’m so drawn to it.
My roommate, who has been my best friend since my second day of college, works in health care and primarily works nights. Being able to cook something that he can eat before he leaves or that he can take to work, so he doesn’t have to worry about not having food to get him through the night, is something that I really like being able to do.
The ability cooking provides to take one thing off of a person’s plate (pun intended) is something that can be so powerful. I can’t necessarily help someone with their struggles at work or whatever else it may be, but I can make it so that they know they have a meal waiting for them and they don’t have to stress about that, too.
My next foray? Working with masa. I’ll probably start out making fresh tortillas, but my roommate is already hinting about tamales.
I am not so cocky as to think I’m remotely qualified to make tamales at this point in time, so if you have any advice, shoot me an email at [email protected]. I’d love to hear it.