Dicing Onion, photo by Donna

Dicing Onion, photo by Donna

I posted yesterday on twitter that I began cooking because I was hungry but continued to cook because I loved to eat, and it got me thinking.  There are so many different reasons to cook, as a number of twitters pointed out.  Self-defense was a good one!  And with the state of our processed food, one that every cook can claim!  Can I encourage other bloggers to post about why you cook?  Spell it out.  Writing it down forces you to know what you think.  When I was nine, I cooked because I was hungry and making things was fun.  Today, age 46 and devoted to family, I cook because:

—I want my family to have great food all the time that’s tasty and good for their body and brains.

—I cook because it relaxes me after long motionless hours at the computer.

—I cook because I love to eat.

—I cook to make my family and friends happy.

—I cook so Donna doesn’t have to.

—I cook because life better is when I do.

Are there any good reasons not to cook?   Let’s see.

—I don’t have time.  (Or, put another way, I’d rather do something else.)

—It’s too hard.

—I’m too tired.


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.)

It’s almost the weekend!  Time for cooking the fun stuff!   I’m making wine-braised short ribs and butter-filled short bread!

Update: Loving all the comments, but this one I found fascinating: comment by danielle.  And don’t miss this from White On Rice, Diane, whose family in Vietnamese: “cooking was expected of me.” I think it should be expected of more people.


206 Wonderful responses to “Why I Cook”

  • Erin

    i cook because i prefer to eat freshly cooked food…i can’t handle too much of that pre-packaged processed stuff that tries to pass as “real food” because i have to watch my sodium intake. i love to cook because it gives me pleasure to create something with my own hands, even if it’s just a fresh salad. i also love cooking for the man i love even if it’s something simple like pasta with fresh veggies and homemade tomato sauce. sitting down to a home-cooked meal is one way of creating new memories, so when you prepare the same meal later, you can remember the past times you made that meal, who you made it for, where you were, etc. and yes, i find that after a long day at work, chopping and sauteeing and mixing and tasting is one of the way i meditate and relax.

  • pshampton

    My dad is not the most emotionally expressive individual. In fact, I really don’t know him that well at all. However, when he cooked, I watched. When he cooked, I could ask questions without risking a grouchy retort. When he cooked, he seemed more human….just more accessible…more loving. I loved that so as a young kid, I would wait for the intense, greasy fat fast that was Sunday breakfast. Fried roundsteak, homemade hashbrowns, fresh eggs fried in pork fat and scratch gravy (although I have to give props to my mom on the gravy – hers is always better than his) . I waited for the Saturday afternoon bbq when my dad would turn cheap cuts of meat into nirvana on a plate with homemade bbq sauce and and a spice blend that he fiddled with for years. My dad was a better person when he was cooking. I learned to cook in order to be with him and to figure out why cooking changed him so. He didn’t have the best life or the best job and cooking was a release. It was relaxation, it was creative. And I think that last bit is the important thing. His world view didn’t allow men to be creative or expressive. But cooking let him be both. I cook for the very same reasons. I’ve tried many creative outlets but nothing is as good as getting out a pot, opening the frig and throwing ingredients together that slowly meld and transform into something new. Oh, and good to eat.

  • Michael F.

    The short of it? I cook because it’s a constant reminder of my 2nd chance at life.

    The (slightly) longer version is that last year, after years of abuse and repressed emotional issues, I went to a 4+ month rehab here in Jersey. As the program was free of charge, it relied heavily on a work-therapy style aspect of treatment. I was placed to work in the kitchen. While I was learning to live a drug-free, mentally stable life, I was also learning to cook.

    For me, the act of cooking is inseperable from the recovery process. Every time I cook, I am reminded of not only my new life, but also of what it took to get here. I had never made a cooked a meal before in my life. Two completely new things became intertwined, and led to a second chance at life.

    I know where I came from, and I know that I never want to go back. Cooking helps me remember all this, and propels me forward into a brighter future.

  • Lindie

    I cook because I love to. I love to try new recipes out on my family and friends. My mother once gave me a sign for my kitcehn which expresses it exactly. “Love is homemade”.

  • Karen

    A certain scent or aroma whilst cooking used to evoke wonderful memories of my childhood, loved ones or travels.

    Life leads us down different paths and over the past 3 years I lived in Hong Kong and learnt how to master intermediate Chinese cooking, which I might add I was passionate about. Getting ready to move back to my own country for good, I suffered a head injury and unfortunately lost my ability to taste and smell. As one could imagine, I am devastated. Cooking now is that bit more challenging as I used to rely on my senses to determine whether something was cooked or not just by its smell. It is 3 months since my accident and I may regain my senses again but it is unlikely. Currently, I am in denial but I continue to throw myself into my cooking as I can see the enjoyment in my children’s faces when they sit down to eat something amazing. Even though I have feelings of sadness every day, I also now rely on my children more than ever to help me out when I’m cooking as I can no longer tell if something is watery or whether it needs more sugar or salt. Food these days does not contain any flavour only texture. Cooking is also particularly hazardous for me if something is burning or the gas is left on! I love my children to bits and am all the more determined to make meal times a happy and memorable experience for them. So to sum things up, from my perspective, cooking is made all the more pleasurable if you have all 5 senses!

  • Larry S.

    I started cooking when I was young because I was imitating my great grandmother who cooked amazing food. I continued to love to cook as I got older because it came so natural to me. Prepping for a recipe is relaxation for me, cooking is refuge from a hectic world and finally tasting a properly prepared meal is a joy.
    As my father told me when I was around 12 years old, if you love to eat, you’ll learn how to cook.

  • Kev

    Fast food isn’t cheaper than fresh food!

    I noticed this when my wife and I stopped into Wendy’s when we were in a hurry one night. It occurred to me that I could have put a steak dinner on the table for a little over half what I spent on one hamburger and one chicken burger combo.

  • PDX Todd

    Why do I cook? The short answer is because I was the only boy growing up in a house with 4 women, and it was a simple matter of survival. They said cook for us or die, so I did.

    The long answer is because it provides me with an outlet for my creative and artistic desires, while producing something substantive and useful that many of my friends either cannot or choose not.

    Cooking great meals for my family and friends is second nature to me now and I truly enjoy watching them devour one of my meals.

    Since moving to Portland from Philly, I’ve become more aware of what I’m eating and how I’m eating it, and this has shown in my cooking.

    Over the past year, I’ve ripped out my front yard and put in raised beds for gardening, started pickling tons of veggies, and have been buying whole animals and butchering them. I’ve also recently started making charcuterie, with the help of your book, and have had some great successes already.

    I’ve seen you on Anthony Bourdain’s show a few times, and if you’re like him, I’m the kind of guy you’d want to hang out with next time you’re in Portland.

    I’m likely to sneak up on you in a parking lot, brandishing a spicy lonzino, jar of pickles, and a bottle of some type of liquor I distilled and infused with some kind of local fruit or nut at home. You’d think I’m crazy ( which I just could be ), but you’d get a great taste of local flavor, and then I’d pour you a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir or a pint of IPA, all made by my friends and fellow Oregonians. After a few hours of drinking and eating, you’d wake up in your hotel room the next day, covered in stripper glitter and say ” Wow.. I really love Portland!!”

    The invitation is open.

    All the best.


  • Corey

    I started cooking because that’s what people in Cleveland Heights do, Ruhlman. And after 5 years living in a cubicle, barely liking myself in my khakis and button-downs and non-clogs, nothing feels better than getting my hands dirty and knowing at the end of the day, good or bad, exactly what has been accomplished.

    Cooking, in my case baking, is one of the few contemporary endeavors where we can see the end. We can look down at the final product and say “I did this.” Try saying that during your quarterly performance reviews.

    It’s a great feeling and one of the reasons that I continue to cook.

    Almondine Bakery
    Brooklyn, NYC