I get asked this question a lot, usually by a co-worker through a mouthful of whatever sweet or savory creation I’ve brought into the office to share.
I get it though. Cooking and baking are hardly considered the most manly of hobbies, certainly not what one would expect from a guy who spends a lot of his time lifting heavy objects in a testosterone-filled environment.
Other than the obvious answer of “I really like to eat”, there’s a number of reasons why being creative in the kitchen appeals to me.
Part of it probably stems from my childhood. Every Sunday was baking and roast dinner day. Inheriting the routine from her own mother, on Sunday mornings my mum would pre-heat the oven and get to work on various pastries and culinary desserts. Favorites included apple crumbles, sponge cakes, fruit scones, jam tarts and lemon meringue pie. Whilst juggling the creation of sweet treats, mum would also be putting together our traditional Sunday Roast. Meats would vary between the classics; beef, lamb, chicken or pork accompanied by the usual roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips and green veg.
The smell of that Sunday morning baking was something I looked forward to all week. Sometimes my mum would let me help with the basics (i.e. stuff I couldn’t set on fire) like preparing pastry or mixing cake batter. Yeah, there’s definitely a nostalgia factor to my love of being in the kitchen.
I think I also find a lot of the satisfaction in multitasking. While that chocolate is melting, I can whisk these eggs. While that chicken is sizzling, I can throw together a sauce. While my culinary work slowly simmers on the stove, there’s a chance to clean surfaces and wash utensils. Balancing all the little tasks while keeping an eye on the timer can almost become an addictive game.
Another factor is simply a basic enjoyment of creating something from scratch. I like to make things and cooking scratches that itch. When trying a new recipe, a lot of the time you have no idea how the end product will turn out. Most of the time with my efforts, the maiden cooking endeavor is disastrous. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve under-cooked, overcooked or just generally ballsed up a recipe. Half the fun is failing.
They’re not all winners – my first attempt at iced Victoria Sponge
But with each new attempt comes improvement and eventually you at least become capable of the basics – making a pizza base, an omelette, a short crust pastry, a simple soup or stew. You may not have all the steps/ingredients committed to memory (I certainly haven’t), but the methods stick with you regardless. As you get older you realise many grown adults never learnt any cooking skills and still rely on frozen prepared foods. If you can grill some salmon in breadcrumb, people will suspect you are wizard.
Plus you get to share your creations (well, at least the ones that don’t come out looking like prison food). Getting compliments on your cooking from friends, co-workers and family members always helps to re-affirm that your own taste buds haven’t become too easy to please and you are in fact making some sort of progress. Of course, with comes the usual complaints that you’re messing up people’s diets (because apparently willpower is not a thing and you are outright forcing them to try your culinary treats) but generally it gives a great feeling to know that you’ve brightened someone’s day a little with the timeless gift of food.