Cooking And Writing
My love for cooking began with a Blue Apron subscription and a kitchen the size of a walk-in closet. The six hours it took to prep, cook, eat, and clean felt incredibly satisfying.
When my husband and I joined forces we took cooking to Master Class level and learned from Thomas Keller how to sous vide carrots with milk. There was nothing we loved more than cooking an elaborate meal, opening a French red, turning up Michael Buble radio, and hosting friends.
And then my son was born.
Now when my husband asks, “What should we do for dinner?” I groan. I don’t know. I don’t care! Let’s get Chick-fil-A?
The excitement, pleasure, and satisfaction of cooking had slipped away. But it wasn’t just because of the birth of my son.
I thought back to that Blue Apron subscription in my tiny studio apartment and remembered why I started cooking. I was post-break-up from a guy I thought I was going to marry when I suddenly became aware of my heavy drinking habit, more than recreational use of cocaine, and sick obsession with calorie counting. And I had stopped writing. I didn’t know what or who I was writing for, so I saw no point.
But I still wanted to make things.
Cooking was a creative outlet. There was satisfaction in preparing a meal from scratch. It felt purposeful. And it distracted me from my self-doubt around writing.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic she tells the story of Clive James, a writer who fell into a deep depression after writing a play that bombed. He didn't think he would ever write again. Then his two young daughters asked for a favor - could he make their old, second-hand bikes look nicer?? So he did. First he painted them a beautiful red. Then he painted tiny stars all over the bikes. "It was incredibly satisfying work." Finally he finished. The next day, the daughters brought over a friend. Could he paint her bike, too? Soon there was a line of children.
"...When the last bike had been decorated, ... Clive James at last had this thought: I will write about this one day. And in that moment, he was free. The failure had departed; the creator had returned.."
I had no aspirations of becoming a chef. The role of cooking served the function of pulling me out of a hard place. I couldn’t write. But I had to make something. Because making is a vital part of the human spirit. It helps you get through hardship and change.
So just as Clive James painted bicycles, I cooked.
My abrupt disinterest in cooking had less to do with having a baby and more to do with my recent writing momentum. I looked forward to publishing an essay and sending out a newsletter every week. The support, accountability, and feedback from my newfound online friends was motivating and inspiring. My love for writing had returned.
It’s okay for old passions to subside. It doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. They lie dormant and bubble back to the surface as needed.
Cooking is not a big part of my life right now because I’m in a season of writing. But Thomas Keller and my Joule will always be there when I need them.
Much thanks to Michael Dean for his feedback on this essay.