Friday, February 4, 2011

What Kind of Cook Are You?

I have been sharing recipes and thoughts on the world of food for over a year now. The time is ripe for some reader input. I have become more and more curious about those of you who are tuning in. What is your relationship to food and cooking? Are you a busy working mom cook? Is cooking a chore or a creative way to unwind? Do you cook for yourself, a family, or enjoy entertaining? Do you like challenging recipes? Are you a slow-food die hard? Are you just learning how to hold a knife? Are you a local food guru? An opening a can of soup guru? Do you omit certain groups of food from your diet for specific reasons? What got you inspired to cook more at home? Has your health improved by cooking more for yourself? What are some of the struggles and joys of cooking for you? Do recipes inspire you to play or do you follow them like a military recruit?
I am sincerely interested in your foodie life (however broad or slight). If you have a moment, give me a brief peek. Try describing yourself in as little as one sentence. Example: A busy, do-my-best, love recipes for inspiration, fall into bed at 9 pm kind of cook.
My goal is to learn more about the cooks behind the various aprons so I can continue to learn and grow in hopes of diversifying this blog even more in the coming year.
Thank you in advance for your thoughts!


  1. A busy, sometimes reluctant, hates cleaning up, but overall-finds-cooking-therapeutic-and-happy vegan kind of cook.

    I have learned a lot about cooking over the years. When I graduated from college, I did not know how to cook at ALL. (Boiling pierogis and frozen peas, or making spaghetti, was the height of my culinary expertise.) I didn't know how to make (non-instant) rice. I had a recipe direction to "brown flour" and I thought that meant I should go buy flour that was brown. I was reluctant to buy a real knife when I moved into my first apartment because I didn't see the point.

    Then I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan and began learning to cook -- and loved it. I started cooking and baking with a vengeance and tried all sorts of new foods.

    Now, I go through stages where I might cook a lot vs. being lazy and buying fast/easy things to prepare. I also just went through a period of eating only raw foods, which was another way to open up to new foods, change how I view food/eating, learn new recipes, and try something different.

    Also, I love my juicer.

  2. When I went to college I didn't know how to cook anything more than ramen. I grew up on the SAD and that was all I knew. I learned to cook when I went vegan because I couldn't expect that any other food was truly vegan.

    Then I got VERY into nutrition, and decided I wanted to study it professionally so I could help other low-income families adopt a whole-food diet as we had done. So that's what I did -- the first part anyway (can't afford to be self-employed now!).

    Along the way I became very invested in agriculture and eventually dropped veganism, and then vegetarianism, in favor of supporting localized, small-scale agriculture as much as possible. So that's my food philosophy now.

    As for what kind of cook I actually am: quick most days, especially as a full-time student who does farm labor alongside two young kids, Always whole-food, fun and simple, but when I have the time I love to elaborate.

    Cooking is my meditation, and I think I'm fairly creative. I had to get even more creative after I developed a gluten intolerance alongside severe hypoglycemia.

    I cook at home because it's cheaper, healthier, tastes better, and is more supportive of the farmers and animals where I live. I notice a very large difference between the food I make and the stuff I buy at restaurants -- no doubt preparing my own food has improved my health.

    Great questions! :)

  3. I happen to know for a fact that some of your readers are quite the entertainers. For myself, I am much more inspired to cook for others as a practice of hospitality. I love baking. When cooking for myself, I usually keep it simple, yet potent- food that will last a few days and really packs a nutritional punch.

  4. Ahhh, this is great! Keep it coming all! Thanks so much for the wonderful peek into your food lives!

  5. Well... some time ago now, in the little town of State College, a group of friends (new and old) carved Thursday nights out of the weekly to come together and share wholesome food and fun times. This experience, prioritizing a little bit of wellness, a little bit of time in the kitchen, and sharing food with friends certainly began to shape my relationship with food. And... so thankful for the friends I met those nights;)

    I meal plan, making sure my family gets a balance of nutritious meals and a variety of taste. I buy local, sprout my legumes and grains, press garlic instead of buying the tempting little jar already pressed, and make time for the process of cooking. My little man is learning that food comes from the ground, the farm, and that it takes time to cook it. Today, a busy mom, I stood with a box of chicken nuggets in my hand in EarthFare (organic, but still, a nugget), and had a talk with myself. Food miles, packaging, processing, assembly line... and I quickly returned it to the shelf. My son has never eaten anything from a fast food restaurant, has had conventionally raised meat only twice in two years, and eats kale like a champ. We're planning our garden. I do what I can in the kitchen, and we are all feeling pretty good. I use real butter and cream and enjoy my food. Now if only I could talk myself away from chocolate and coffee... some of my current goals. Others: to have a larger garden, reduce my grocery bill, find time for homesteading endeavors such as raising chickens, and renewing my knowledge of growing vegetables.

    Thanks for the opportunity to contribute, Rachel! You are doing a fabulous and inspiring job:)

  6. Cook with what you have avaible in your house, be it soup/stew/whatever. Next to that I love to make my weekend bread; see it develop into two loafs that last us for a week.
    Still struggling with the USA measurements; cups,tsp,tbsp,ounce, pound,etc.
    The connection between school foods and nurturing children keeps me busy as a cook(????).
    Luckely I am mariied to a health freak cook.
    Lucky me that I can do this in between 4 walls and not three.

  7. I feel like you said it... busy, do my best, inspired by recipes(never follow completely), fall into bed by nine...

    Try to focus on in season produce as much as possible. In my ideal world, I'd have three-extra laura's (like what Dana described in her recent post!) and one of them would cook amazing meals all the time, straight out of my garden.

    But reality is closer to, I feel good if I've given thought to what I will cook a few days ahead of myself and tried to use what we have or what is most available from the season.

    I definately miss college food co-ops, where as a group, we took turns buying, cooking, cleaning. The extra part was eating together and experiencing what someone else does with the same ingredients!

    Great idea, Rachel, to ask these questions.
    Your passion shines through this blog and is infectious!

  8. This is some of the best reading material I've laid my eyes on in ages! Thank you so much for the fabulous insights and details. Everyone is so inspiring in their passion to cook and eat well, despite a common thread of busy schedules. Thank you, thank you!

  9. Cooking for others, yes! I love the idea of telling people - food at my house at 4. Come if you can. (This is how I convinced your Uncle Ben to be my friend!)

    Also, cooking with intention. Taking the time to read and learn, to smell and taste. To chop and stir and breathe. When I decided I wanted to cook well, I spent about three years reading about cooking. I read every cookbook and cooking magazine I could get my hands on until I worked up the courage to try something. My kitchen has never been the same since. I try to keep intention at the forefront of every meal. To remember where my food came from and that I am preparing it with love.

    In one sentence though? I can make that and look darn good doing it!

  10. I can often gauge my state of mind by paying attention to how much I am cooking. Cooking is very grounding to me. I love the ebb and flow of figuring out what is ripe and what needs to be used up. I worship at the temple of farmer's markets. I am amazed by the life energy of the food you get directly from the ground. Sometimes after going to the farmer's market I arrange all the vegetables in a bowl and look at them the way others arrange flowers in a vase. I love buying a food or vegetable that I have never cooked and experimenting with it- recent explorations have been pomegranate molasses, horse radish and smoked paprika. Rachel, thanks for sharing your passion and creating an interesting, beautiful blog.

  11. Thank you Beka! What gorgeous descriptions. I love to do the same thing with farmer's market scores, looking at everything before preparing some of the best meals of the week. I can relate with you whole-heartedly too on gauging state of mind by how much cooking is going on in the kitchen! Thank you for your thoughts! Happy cooking!

  12. Passionate home farmer in the pscific sea salty air giving everyone on my street fresh grown backyard veg and food to my family from the garfen to the table daily with thanksgiving.

  13. Just found your site! Loving it!

    I am a cook who has re-discovered her roots after being lost for many years. I was fortunate to be raised on a farm with grass-fed cows (and was SHOCKED recently when I watched Food Inc. and came to the realization that "happy cows come from CA" was a lie!) pastured pork, chicken, and eggs, and our own home-grown fruits and veggies. Raised by a mom who made bread, noodles, and canned and preserved everything, and a Dad who brought home pheasants from hunting, and venison. What a great foundation I had. I lost it all as I grew up and moved away out of state to college and then to my adulthood. Recently though, I have come back around because of health issues with myself and my 7 yr old son - I've always loved to cook - but I am now back to cooking using more traditional methods and foods. Grass-fed beef, pastured pork & chicken & eggs, with raw milk cheeses, cream, and yogurt. Visiting Farmers Markets more than the grocery store, and raising many of my own vegetables, and some fruit. My cooking with all of this though has become simpler. We like simple meals. A steak, marinated and grilled to juicy, bright pink on the inside perfection, with grilled asparagus, onions, and peppers is a perfect meal for us. Or a chicken, stuffed with lemon, garlic, and onion, and roasted with root vegetables....eaten with the crispy skin ON!
    Or how about an omelet with spinach, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and feta cheese? That would be another perfect I guess I am a re-discovered cook who loves simple, delicious, healthy cooking - and I love to make my family happy at meal time.

    I am also a cook who firmly believes that we eat with our eyes first, and I love to make the presentation of my food look as good as the food tastes.

    I've also recently purchased a Food Dehydrator, and am having so much fun with jerky recipes, and fruit leathers, and dried fruit, and crispy nuts - and looking forward to drying herbs, and veggies and all sorts of other things. It's become my most recent obsession in the kitchen!

  14. Wow, chef Becky and I have the opposite lives - I grew up very unaware of where my food came from, driving past feedlots and eating Tx beef not raised on the range! Luckily my grandparents did raise some cows so I learned cows could have better lives, and I learned more about taste, quality and variety from my other grandparents who lived in NYC. Later in life became VERY interested in putting up food, being at the farmers market (I managed one for 5 yrs) and growing my own big garden. I also learned a lot from some foodie mentors, and much as a Whole Foods employee. I went to Italy to check out Slow Food a long time ago. and I tell people I became a farmer because I love to eat. I bought a farm in WNC over 5 yrs ago that raises a little grass fed beef each year, as well as veggies, heirloom apples, etc. But. . .

    Cooking wise: I am a cook at a private club with a few people every weekend. Some of them are interested in the food's origins and some not. (I wind up cooking a lot of "unhappy meat". this is most weekends this year and it's new to me, I am really learning a lot on the job! Some weekends I am catering locally with farm fresh foods. I REALLY love using what's in season - so excited to have beets now available and a new borsht recipe!

    I found Rachel by accident through my friend Ruth Uffelman's Tailgate Fan club blog. I think my internet woes are about to be over and then I might consider a blog. I have at last accomplished a website for the farm but am devoting my time to cooking, less to farming. (someone else does that part ;)

    I look forward to making more time to follow your blog!
    Thanks for making it so cool!

  15. Wow, this is really beautiful. I just stumbled on this blog and it is truly fun and inspiring.

    Thank you!