In middle school I went through a quick-bread-making phase. They were all banana breads, but I would put a whole bunch of other things in there. I made pear bread with walnuts. Then I made apple bread. Then carrot cake bread. And maybe, if I was feeling unoriginal, I made some plain ‘ole banana bread. Baking was something I did when I was extremely bored, and, while it was fun, I don’t think I was getting the point yet.
Maybe it was because I was just baking. I continued to sporadically bake throughout high school, but since I had exhausted the quick bread (may it rest in peace) I had to expand my repertoire. My new baked goods of choice were cakes, because I liked decorating them (and pretending like I worked at Charm City Cakes…a back pocket career move that I’m still saving). But baking’s downfall is that no one really wants to eat what you make. Baked goods are extra. Put them on the table in your home or dorm, and people will devour them when stressed out or drunk, but that’s not very glamorous. My cakes were pretty, but they would usually go to waste unless I forced any and all visitors to have a slice.
But cooking a meal is different. People really want to eat a meal. If you make dinner (especially if you time things wrong and it’s not ready until 9:00 p.m. and your family almost wishes you would just go back to college so they could eat at a decent time of night) people will be hungry when it’s served. Remember: hunger is the best sauce. They will be planning on eating your food, and they’ll spend more than a minute doing it.
It took me until this past winter break to start seeing why cooking is fun and fulfilling and communal and delicious. And I wouldn’t have delved into such a wonderful pastime if my little brother, Ben, had not recently become so interested in the culinary arts. Fortunately, I had nothing to do over break — a time I usually devote to a combination of eating and sleeping — so I became his devoted sous chef. Preparing meals with Ben soon became a part of my
busy schedule. We made lamb filled wontons, duck gumbo, bibimbap, salted caramel ice cream, black bean burgers, and potato leak soup, among other things. I even learned how to use a mandolin to cut fruits and vegetables so thin that you could see through them.
But the mandolin (to to be confused with the instrument) wasn’t the only thing I learned about. Cooking, especially with someone whose company you enjoy, can change the way you think about food. And if you’re anything like me, food is a HUGE part of your life. Check out some things I learned that you can apply to even the smallest cooking excursions (like when I make an adapted Tiramisu in the Ratty) after the jump:
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