There are many creative pursuits that demand a period of solitude for the germination of projects—writing, music-making, painting, designing. The same can be said of cooking. You see the raw ingredients that will become a meal. Without distractions, we pay closer attention to the behavior of our materials and gain a nuanced understanding of their qualities and how they come together to create a dish.
The long, dark hours of winter evenings and the tough, unyielding root vegetables of the season lend themselves to a kind of engaged and reflective cooking that no other season provides. It can’t be a coincidence that in summer we seem to abandon the stove, opting for simple, refreshing foods that require as little time as possible to prepare, while in winter it is soups, stews, roasts and braises that enamor us—activities that beg a little patience. Cooking brings a welcome warmth into the home.
There are many good things to pay homage to when you're cooking for a table for one. Think of the people who don't have the simple luxury. My mom is a mother of three very picky children; five if you count my father and uncle. Trying to feed that many mouths every night for dinner is exhausting. Cooking, for her, has no longer become a time spent to cook with love and enjoyable efforts in result of constant pressure to simply put anything on the table after she gets home from work.
Though I help her from time to time, we still rush to cook something simple because it won't take very much time. In result, she has taught my family not to crave intricate meals; simple and boring are what we eat for dinner. It's what my younger brothers are accustomed to.
When I moved out, I had these lovely moments to myself, lost in the rhythms of chopping, prepping and combining, are often what I crave most from cooking, whether it’s for 30 minutes, three hours or all of a Sunday. Later the apartment may be filled with friends. When I started to cook for friends was when I started to care so much about what I was putting on the table and who I was filling the room with. It was from cooking alone when I appreciated cooking for others. It was a simple reminder of why most of us cook for—traditions, friends, memories, family, community. There’s little that I love more than that ritual—spending time with the people I care about, eating together. But I find delight in the time prior to the meal equally, that quite period when I am just alone with my materials.
Photograph from Now You're Cooking Blog