When someone asks me if I want to go out to dinner, I never have to think about my response. I love going to a new restaurant, reading over the menu, and trying a crazy appetizer that I wouldn't be able to make at home. On days when I have to tell myself, "you have food at home," I'll end up making a sandwich, heating up a frozen entree, or reviving leftovers before they go bad. Rarely, if ever, have I been the type to dredge up recipes or experiment with food, aside from the few sample boxes I was gifted from Blue Apron. If I'm being honest, those boxes were a larger gift than I ever could have imagined.
Learning to cook from a recipe is soothing for me. Following the step-by-step directions and creating an edible meal out of a list of unprepared ingredients provides me with an impossible sense of accomplishment. After making sheet pan shrimp fajitas or homemade vegetarian ramen noodle bowls, I found that not only do I enjoy cooking, I absolutely love it. The recipe is a guiding force that leads me to build art on a plate.
Lately, being on quarantine, I have found solace in cooking - a previously unlikely place for me to find peace. My mother - an avid baker - has described for years the comfort that fills her soul after making cupcakes from scratch, successfully whipping a ganache without breaking the chocolate, or watching someone take a bite of a new cookie she tried out. The satisfaction she gets from building cookie tins at Christmas to gift to our relatives is unmatched by anything else she does.
And finally, I understand. Yesterday, I made slow-cooker shredded beef cheesesteaks with sauteed peppers and onions on toasted rolls. I seasoned the meat generously, and when I was cooking the vegetables, I tried that fancy no-hands flipping technique that professional chefs do when making things in a pan. I fed five people. I used the oven, the stove-top, and the slow-cooker. I shredded three pounds of meat and had to run the dishwasher twice because of all the utensils I used. Then when I bit into my sandwich, it was one of the best things I've ever tasted.
This process has provided me with an outlet, a way to create the most practical art imaginable. It has given me the time to escape from the world outside my window, to focus on building something delicious and ignore everything else. So I will keep adding spices to meats, investing in new appliances, and purchasing butter in bulk. I will keep cooking to cope and to eat.