Michael Ruhlman: Why I Cook

Posted By Elana Amsterdam On January 8, 2011 @ 2:00 am In community | 34 Comments

michael ruhlman

I heard the fabulous Michael Ruhlman speak at Blogher Food 2010 in San Francisco last year.  He was inspiring, honest and accessible.  His love of, and knowledge of, food is vast.  A couple years ago, Ruhlman wrote a piece on his blog outlining all of the reasons he cooks.  He encouraged others to do so as well.  Here’s my go at it.

Why do I cook?  Well, as Ruhlman stated, in this day and age, it is self-defense.  Goodness only knows what is added to our food these days.  I’m a control freak.  I like to know what I’m putting into my body.  That’s a great reason to cook.

Like Ruhlman (he states he began cooking at age 9), I began cooking as a child.  When I was in the 4th grade, I recall coming home everyday for lunch, turning on the electric pullout stove in our kitchen and frying up a kosher beef frank –that would be called a hotdog nowadays.  My parents both worked full time and I learned to take care of myself early on.

By 5th grade we had moved to a new house around the corner.  We had a yellow enamel gas stove.  I came home from school for lunch almost every day and opened up a can of re-fried beans, heated them, then grated orange cheddar cheese on top.  By high school, all of my friends came over for lunch just about everyday.  I made them brown rice with refried beans, salsa and cheese.  I also loved to bake cookies (they were not the gluten free kind in those days, prior to my celiac diagnosis).  By the time I was a junior in high school I baked chocolate chip cookies and sold them at the tennis club where I taught tennis lessons.  I was a busy girl back then!

I still love to cook.  My two sons, as well as all of the boys in our neighborhood come to my house when they want to create a special baked good.  Last week it was gluten free organic ice cream cake that the gang and I made from scratch.  Sometimes it’s cookies, chocolate bark or cupcakes.  Other days it’s salad.  The gang loves my gluten free Asian Salad Dressing and gobbles down all of their salad when I serve this dressing over greens.  I love baking with the boys, and feeding them, it is so much fun!

Like Ruhlman, I cook now because:

-I find it relaxing and meditative
-Cooking is great physical activity after hours of reading, researching, and writing
-I like to eat fresh, wholesome food
-It’s a way for me to give to family and friends
-I’m a Jewish mother so it is impossible not to (we like to feed people)
-It reminds me of good times in the kitchen with my mother and my bubby


Some reasons not to cook:

-I don’t have time
-I don’t know how
-I’m tired


According to Ruhlman:

All of these are perfectly adequate reasons not to cook.  I sometime use them myself.  But they’re not reasons to never cook.  The only good reasons never to cook are these: cooking gives me no pleasure, and eating doesn’t either.  (This is genuinely the case for some people, and I’ll lay odds they’re not reading this post). Fast food is cheaper than fresh food and, as I am at the poverty level, I have little choice.  (The saddest reason of all, and yet another reason for those who can cook, to cook.  The more people who buy good food help to lower the price of that food through demand.)

First, so many thanks go to Michael Ruhlman for all of his wisdom and inspiration –he’s a great teacher when it comes to food and cooking.

Now it’s time for me to get back to the kitchen.  I’m going to be making a yummy chicken stew since it’s so cold outside, and some delicious gluten free cake pops since the Super Bowl is coming up!  What are you going to make?


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