I have a friend who takes classes on just about everything and anything that’s interesting in the world. Bollywood funk dancing? Sign her up. Grown-up pottery workshops? Let’s make a date of it! she says. She’s a typical New Yorker, Type-A personality, where every learning opportunity is seized, and funneled into bonding sessions with good friends, new date persons, or chances to connect with strangers. In short, she is totally awesome and this is the way we should all be. But we don’t always have the free time nor the money to seize upon everything we could explore.
We all have creative outlets, and/or activities we do for quiet meditation. I don’t know, sometimes those two things meld. For example, one of those relaxing, yet expressive hobbies of mine is playing piano (thanks, Tiger Mom). Learning or re-learning a Bach sonatina both quells my soul and stirs my imagination. Maybe for some, it’s knitting. Maybe for others it’s drawing, or building an awesome bookshelf.
I think there are many moments of the day or the week that we somehow devote to making something invented by us—that’s the broad definition of creativity that I’ll go with. While some we may pay out of pocket for and commit precious spare time time to (like when taking a class), there are going to be many other missed opportunities. There’s an endless world of things we could or should explore. Not all of us have the means to explore as many of them as my enterprising friend.
Cooking for yourself can feed your creativity and fill a daily necessity in one deft, delicious swoop. When you’re actively making something for your own sustenance (not passively ordering out, or robotically following some delivered recipe kit), you’re both doing something you have to do—eating—and exercising your knowledge and imagination. I can’t think of an activity that serves both functions better.
And let’s please hold the notion that you have to be a really brilliant culinary mind to be “creative” when you cook. Everyday cooking is not about making the most artfully inventive meal in the world. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel for dinner, but you can if you want to. You don’t need a chef’s level of expertise to make something completely original every time. But you also don’t need to follow any recipe to a T (which, in fact, is what one of the world’s greatest living chefs, Jacques Pepin, discourages). You can do whatever you want. So go hogwild—or not. See where it leads you.
That’s what brought me to cooking; I didn’t have the cash nor the leisure time to fully engage with food activities of any other sort. I wanted to explore food, but I didn’t have the wallet to do so at the hyped yet expensive eateries in town, nor the spare time to trek out to outer boroughs for cheap yet exciting ethnic foods as often as I would have liked. I was in my early twenties when I started this blog, and now I’m in my early thirties. Things have changed. I’m not as scrappy; I’m admittedly comfortable, and I gladly pay for and devote time to things that my earlier self would barf at if she ever knew. Weekly flower bouquet (instead of snatching wildflowers from a vacant lot to put in a vase)? Yes, please. Monthly housecleaning? I freaking can’t live without it. Expensive yoga classes instead of DIY exercise in the park? Barf, barf, goes my former self.
Growing older has been a process of discarding the duties that I abhor, and owning the ones I love more and more. Let’s face it: There is a finite number of things you can do, no matter how much time you have or how financially comfortable you are. So if you’re looking to bundle some needs and wants into the same bucket, embracing home cooking is a sensible hobby to take up. And, if you really want to get the most out of your home cooking investment—like a true, busy New Yorker? Roll it into a business meeting or a catch-up with an old friend. I think I know just the person to invite for dinner next.