Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Serve It Up

Friends, it's official. I love to cook.

When I was younger, I was not such a fan. Cooking is messy. It's easy to miss essential ingredients when you're reading the recipe. (Like the time I was 12 and making banana bread and it got all the way to the oven without flour. Luckily my mom saved it before it was too late to add it. I mean, I thought it looked runny, but I didn't know . . .)

Even out on my own as an undergrad I was just kind of "meh" about cooking. I liked doing it when the occasion called for it, but really - when you're cooking for one, Ramen and omelets are sufficient. (To some extent, I still feel this way, although I am intrigued by the title of this book.) It's just hard to motivate yourself to cook when you're the only one who's going to enjoy it.

This year I joined a fabulous dinner group that I've mentioned before on this blog, and I discovered what it is that I really love about cooking. Yes, I love the way things almost always come together, and I love choosing recipes and having them be delicious and feeling like I accomplished something. But what I really love is praise. 

Okay, I'm mostly kidding. (Mostly.) But what I really love about cooking is the satisfaction of making things for other people. It's no fun if I'm the only one who enjoys it. I love cooking for people and having them like it. I love inviting people to come over to eat something I've been wanting to try to make. I love pulling off a really great recipe and seeing people react to it. On Sunday I made buttermilk syrup for a breakfast potluck and got great reactions from the people at the potluck and later from my roommate (an intimidatingly great cook and a foodie), and I couldn't get over how much I loved that people loved it. I especially loved having people ask whether I'd tried the syrup when they didn't know I'd made it. (I told them though - because I'm selfish like that, even when it's some little four-ingredient thing like syrup.)

I guess you can take one of three messages from this. 1) Megan is an attention-monger who needs constant validation and therefore cooks get people to tell her how awesome she is. (This is kind of true. I won't deny it.) 2) It's okay to enjoy doing things because you're good at them - especially if other people benefit from you being good at them. (I like this one because it has that "don't hide your talents" aspect but there's still a little angle for you in there.)

3) Some things are just better when you do them for other people.

We talk a lot about ourselves on this blog, and I think that's okay. Taking care of yourself enables you to better take care of other people, because good emotional, physical, mental, spiritual health for you = lovely, charming, easy-to-be-around you. We also talk a lot about things that we do for other people, which is great. The fastest way to increase your loveliness is to serve other people. But in case it hasn't been explicitly stated yet, I'm going to say it: sometimes doing things for other people is the best thing you can do for yourself. 

Some friends enjoying the result of a day and a half of brining, peeling, and baking. My roommate and I talked about how awesome we were for days because we'd pulled off a nearly perfect Thanksgiving - but the best part was serving it to our friends who couldn't make it home for the holiday. 

I don't like cooking if I'm the only one who is going to enjoy the end result, but it's become something that I really love to do. (For the record, I still enjoy the cooking, even if I don't get an awesome reaction to the food. But I definitely prefer cooking things that are awesome and more likely to elicit a response.) Maybe some of the reasons for that are selfish ones, but really, do you think anyone decided to make the world a better place without first thinking he or she might like to live in a better place?

Come on.


Buttermilk Syrup

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Combine butter, sugar and buttermilk in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Boil 2 minutes. Note: This can get messy, so you might want to use a bigger pan than you really need to avoid having it boil over.

Add baking soda. Mixture will fizz. Stir, then add vanilla. Remove from heat. Serve.

Refrigerate leftovers.


Lin said...

I learned this lesson (good cooking=praise) early on in life. I think it started with cookies, which, incidentally, I really don't love cooking or eating now. But, I used to cook for groups of people during college because I would rather spend the day cooking and letting others enjoy it then just cook for myself and find other things to do. Eating is communal and social and it should be fun and I love being the person who makes that time possible by providing the delicious food.

LifeAsABox said...

I also started baking early. Mostly because I enjoy eating things made primarily from fat and sugar, but also for praise. I understand the attention-mongering and need for constant validation. That's why I have a blog.

As an undergrad I didn't cook much either, but I've started to now--even though I have no dinner group, so it's all for myself. (Though I especially loved getting together with Dain, Whitney, Elise, and Alex to spend a day cooking, eating, and drinking.) I'm totally into Food Network and there are eight cookbooks I really want right now, including The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

I think the best part about cooking is taking a few ingredients and creating something that wasn't there before. Now that's being lovely.

Miri said...

It feels good when someone has spent time cooking for you, making something more exciting than Ramen, and that's why I like doing it.

Plus, there's also the fact that my sisters always made fun of me for being the least domestic of all of us, and now I can show off all the yummy things I can make. :)

Janssen said...

I love to cook too. But not when it's just me.

Also, where is this syrup recipe?!

Meg said...

Your wish is my command. The recipe is now at the end of the post.