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”

  • JokeIII

    I cook because I seek very specific tastes from what I eat and I can’t get anyone else to provide those for me.

  • Joe

    I cook because:

    1) at 26 yeras of age, just back from Vietnam I was single and didn’t know if I would ever marry so figured had to get better at cooking.
    2) my mom was a fantastic cook and I wanted to replicate some of the things she did (she gave me recipes, but I regret not getting ‘hands on’ baking training from her, am now resigned to never having bread or rolls that good again)
    3) my Korean born wife was an incredible cook (other regret, not learning to make kimchee although I assisted)
    4) my wife asked me to make scampi when her high rolling Korean bridge playing buddies would come to town.
    5) my dad asked me to make lasagna for him
    6) I like it when people ask me to make them certain things and like it even more when young people ask me to show them how to make something
    7) it ain’t that hard and my wife taught me to be fearless wrt to cooking, she was an amazing replicator … am thinking how she started doing her own hot pot modelled on a meal we had in Taipei many years ago …
    8) was once assigned to Warsaw, my wife taught Poles how to make kimchee and somehow managed to put on a full fledged Mongolian BBQ in our backyard before we left Poland in 1993 … how could I not cook after being around her?

    Oh and yes, I am a food snob, I abhor chains

  • Carrie Oliver

    I started cooking because I wanted to be a big girl not a child! I started grilling because I realized early on that he (or she) who commands the grill is The Man (or Woman). The other reason was my mom went away for a week when I was about 9 and my dad was hopeless in the kitchen. That week I discovered I LOVE to cook!

    • Michele M

      I started cooking because I grew up knowing the importance of food in a family tradition. The familiar aroma of a family sauce, holiday tradition cakes, cookies, pastries all of these things taught me at a young age that these were easily obtainable constants in life. I learned to replicate the dishes and recipes that I grew up on and then moved on to attend culinary classes and teach myself through books with trial and error results. I now find solace at a flour covered board, the dough under my hands reassures in the continuity of something so simple yet so important to everyday life. When all else fails, people will still be hungry and someone will need to feed them. I love knowing that I am that someone. I might not conquer the world, my name may not ever appear on the front page, I will not discover any cures for disease…but at my hands many will be fed, some will find comfort and all will be told that to share food is to share love…it is a basic need.

  • Cathy Curtis

    Cooking gets me into the “zone”. It is creative and soothing. I also really like knowing exactly what I am eating, how much butter, salt, etc. Very few restaurants serve food that I would want to eat every day. Not that it isn’t delicious but it can be high in calories or too rich. I love to cook from my weekly CSA veggie box – who knew vegetables could be so beautiful and so tasty? I bond with my husband when we cook together, we share the same love of fresh, seasonal, local foods..it’s just another way to keep us connected.

  • cybercita

    most the women in my family were very good cooks and expressed their love through their cooking, and so i guess it’s natural that i do, too.

    my mother died when i was eight, and i became responsible for dinner for my brother and father pretty soon after that. i soon learned how to broil a steak, steam some broccoli, and bake a potato, and get it all to the table at the same time. i started cooking my way through the new york times cookbook, which my mother had left on a shelf in the kitchen. by twelve, i had mastered a basic white loaf, brisket, and chicken soup. i could make cream puffs, iles flottant, and mayonnaise. i also requested that i be allowed to be in charge of the gravy at thanksgiving, since my aunt was a terrible cook and i knew instinctively i could do a better job than she could. {i did.}

    now i cook because i love the creative outlet that it provides, and because the food i make at home is much better, cheaper, and healthier than restaurant food or takeout. i love my sunny little manhattan kitchen with actual counter and storage space. i love my all clad pots and my wustof knife and my lodge skillets. i love my little cloth lined basket that always has an onion or two, an avocado, a mango, a pear, carefully ripening. i love my spice racks, i love my microplane and my citrus reamer. i love my store of nuts in the freezer, the thoughtfully purchased collection of pans: loaf, springform, tarte, pie, eight and nine inch cake, cookie, jellyroll. i can’t imagine not being able to cook or bake on a daily basis. nothing gives me more pleasure than having company and planning a menu.

  • Keikalani

    I cook because it is a delicious passion that continues to teach, connect, and surprise me. I am an artist and after eight years of serious focus in the kitchen, I’ve discovered an entirely new, constantly evolving love. I began “basic” cooking as a necessity many years ago and because I farm from a year-round organic home garden I wanted to enjoy the most out of the crops I was tending. My husband and son are both long-distance runners so these days I focus on being a personal chef for two athletes – I am enjoying that adventure a lot. I also make it a point to share my skills with friends and host parties where cooking, eating, drinking, and celebrating are the focus of the evening!

  • BobY

    I cook because my parents did not and after my first trip to France I discovered what real food was. I cook for the transformational aspect of it – my greatest cooking memory was when I cooked a dish from an early Julia Child program, Chicken Livers in White Wine Sauce. She used cornstarch as a thickener, and when the sauce actually thickened, I considered it a miracle ! I cook because I love to eat.

  • Victoria

    I am an only child who was raised in NYC. My grandfather owned a butcher shop on Broadway. I ate good – and healthy – food at home growing up, cooked either by my English mother or my Italian-American grandmother.

    Every other year, when my mother took me home to visit her parents, we sailed back and forth on the M.V. Britannic, a Cunard White Star Liner that took eight, instead of five, days to cross. Even when I was young, we ate each meal at the second seating, and I was never regulated to “nursery tea,” which is when most children ate their last meal of the day on board ship. The food was delicious and plated by a steward using French Service (two spoons in one hand).

    Then once in England, even though it was post WWII, the food was a delight. My grandfather there was a pork butcher, and he made those lovely pork pies that you so love, MR. We had crumbly, pale orange Cheshire cheese, bright red cherry tomatoes, green onions, fresh eggs softly boiled with Hovis bread toast soldiers, tea with milk, and Victoria sponge cake for high (workingman’s) tea. I can still sense Sunday lunch – roast lamb with gravy, crusty roast potatoes, cauliflower – oh, the cauliflower – and trifle.

    When I got engaged at 19 years old, I ate dinner at my future mother-in-law’s every Sunday. The food was excellent. And when I got married at 20, even though I had not learned to cook at home, I took the two cookbooks I had received as presents – the 1964 Joy of Cooking and the blue Craig Claiborne New York Times Cookbook, which carried as an inscription, the Thomas Wolf quote “There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves,” and set myself the task of learning to cook.

    My first meal was going to be meat loaf, but it took too long to cook, so I took a tip from Joy and made it in a muffin tin – like little meal loaves. But I used dried parsley, so it was more like parsley balls. Fortunately, it’s been uphill since then. I learned to cook, I love to cook, and, not a surprise, I never used dried parsley again.

    Now my motto is that even if I’ve put in a long day at work, “I’d rather eat late than out!.”

  • EAT!

    I am a personal chef ,and it took me almost 20 years to “find the right profession” for me. I know this is the career for me because it does not feel like work when I am working. There is not a day I am bored or wish I was doing something else.

    That is why I cook.

  • Isabelle

    I cook because it makes me happy. It is a place where I am at ease. I love the way I can transform ingredients into something amazing. Flour, water and yeast all by themselves it is nothing exceptional but mix them together, work it and you will have some breads.

    I love to play with food and flavours.

  • allen

    The wife has a cold and I wanted to get her some hot thai chicken soup, tom ka gai – the one without the coconut milk, not sure if the name is correct. The restaurant did not open until 1100 am, it was only 1015. I knew I had the arsenal in my freezer for this: galangal, lemon grass, lime leaves, samal olek, 3 crab fish sauce,green onion, cilantro, one lime, lots of home made chicken broth and plenty of meat or seafood. So I have it on the stove cooking away and can adjust the heat level to her liking after it’s made, a few frozen items but still superior to the one I would have bought. I’m also making some thai curry over jasmine rice, chicken satay with homemade peanut sauce (so simple to make – peanut butter, 5 spice, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sambal olek – mix and serve) This little feast would have set me back over $50, I made it for less than a 1/3 of that. A good reason to cook. My appologies to chef Pardus, but the egg rolls are frozen. I am still waiting for his fresh spring roll demo.

  • h lee

    1. It is the métier that I use to perceive the world. History, culture, language, geography can all be traced through food
    2. Because it is my avenue of choice for personal expression.
    3. Because it transcends language to convey emotion
    4. Because it relaxes and focuses me like nothing else.
    5. Because my grandmother lives when I smell her pound cake baking in the oven
    6. Because cooking and the garden are the only things that teach me patience in a way I understand

  • Metaxa

    I cook because I like to.

    Some other things I like to do have laws regulating them, but so far cooking is regulation free.

    That is a bonus.

  • Ellen Lee

    I grew up as one of the older girls in a large farm family (12 children) in Alberta. I learned to cook early, to help my mother and because it got me out of doing other chores which were less appealing. By the age of 12 I could make a basic roast beef dinner with boiled potatoes and gravy, and by 15 was experimenting with cream cakes, pies, bread and baked apples.

    I love to cook because I love to eat, and it is a way to make things the way I like them.

    I find cooking therapeutic – relaxing and stimulating at the same time.

    Cooking releases my creativity and allows me to create things that please others.

  • Alisha Attella

    I started my career in the kitchen as a bobble-headed three year old when my grandmother stuck me on a stepstool and put a wisk in my hand.
    Over the course of my young life I continued a bit here and there: dreaded coffee can bread from teen magazines, lovely (though underseasoned) dolma, haphazard attempts at fancy dinner parties for school friends. I always enjoyed these experimentations but never gave the process much thought until it was time to declare what I wanted to be when I grew up.
    I had long struggled between the arts and sciences. Should I go into medicine or direct film or teach art?
    Suddenly the proverbial light bulb surged bright and I realized that cooking was a perfect blend of creative expression and chemistry! Viola or Eureka (depending on your preference)! A chef was born.
    Though I no longer cook professionally, I never feel so myself and strangely at ease as when I’ve got my four home range gas burners blazing, bread in the oven, and a tumbler of wine on the counter waiting, ever so impatiently for my living room to fill with very hungry, very thirsty family and friends.

    That’s why I cook.

  • Ray

    I like to cook because I get to use my knives…. I’m not entirely kidding. THere’s something about using your hands, making something good and necessary. I work in an office..in the world of ideas. Cooking grounds me, connects me to the earth. And yes it’s very fulfilling to feed my kids and my wife.

  • Ed B.

    Ditto — from what others have to say. I love to cook and if I had my druthers, I would stop working and cook for enjoyment and personal fulfillment. My mother was an excellent, self-taught cook and I watched her whenever I cook. My father was a strict disciplinarian who forbade me from watching my mother as, to him, cooking is “woman’s work!” How disgusting! Anyway, I’m married to a woman who enjoys my cooking “experiments.” Give me a challenge, but my philosophy is to use the best, freshest ngredients available and to keep it simple. The less complex, the better is my mantra and I get such joy out of watching guests’ eyes light up when they try something I made and, consequently, I light up feeling their love from my “gifts.”

  • Hershey

    I cook because it shows a representation and extension of myself *same reason why I also made my food blog*

    It is my craft that I hone it through repetition where today’s creation should be better than yesterday’s and the day before yesterday and last week and so forth…

    Lastly, I cook because I want my to be satisfied with my craftsmanship. I always think that one can be perfect with his own craft but it seems impossible, one can only be satisfied thus making me to want learn more, to cook more, to experience more about food and cooking! 🙂

  • chico

    So many of these comments are soulful and inspired that I almost don’t want to add to them, but here goes. I learned to cook to prevent my mother (an amazing women in most respects) from accidentally poisoning my three brothers and me. When the four of us were arguing about who had to go to Taco Bell, buy one taco and grab 10 or 15 sauce packets so mom could make meatloaf (or, even scarier, spaghetti sauce) it was clear someone had to learn to cook. I started at 14 and by the time I was 16 I was in love with the process (I was also the family cook). I’m 52, my brothers and our families get together frequently and I still love feeding these guys.

  • AmazingAmma

    I began cooking because … well… I’m Indian and my childhood was centred around the kitchen. My fondest memories of childhood are of being in the kitchen in my parents’ house or in one of my grandparents’ houses , or in friends’ houses and listening to the rich sounds, smelling the amazing aromas and tasting the delightful flavours produced there. Memories of both men and women gathering in kitchens, passing on delectable stories and even more delectable recipes dot my childhood.

    I continue to cook because I’m passionate about it. It’s the one thing that will calm me, that inspires me always, that satisfies my curiosity, that continues to challenge me and that I know I can never master… there’s always some elusive recipe or flavour to attempt.

    I cook because it sustains me physically, mentally and emotionally. I cook because it’s a way to connect with my children, my siblings, my extended family. I cook because I know this is a valuable skill to pass on to my children and eventually their children. I cook because it gives me an opportunity to connect with my cultural origins and to explore the cultures of others in a sensational way.

    I suspect that I cook for more reasons than I truly know. Thanks for asking such a profoundly insightful question!

  • chadzilla

    I am always amazed when people associate ‘cooking’ with ‘making a mess.’
    There is hardly any mess when I cook no matter what the undertaking.
    Really learning to manage cooking teaches organization. It’s a mental exercise on top of everything else it offers. You must think ahead of time, plan things out, learn to improvise when the plan falters, and use all of your senses to achieve the desired result… or salvage a different result. It hones all of these skills. It’s like rock and roll.

  • Alex M.

    “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.)”

    um, if demand increases, prices go up until supply goes up to compensate for the increased demand, in which case they stabilize.

    In the scenario you present, the opposite would be true: the more people buy cheap, bad food, the cheaper good food would be, because demand drops while supply stays the same.

    On the other hand, I cook at home because I can make stuff cheaper than I could buy somewhere else, and It’s really easy to find simple, cheap, nutritious recipes these days.

  • Rhonda


    Me too!!!!

    I think I love you in a dysfunctuional kitchen sort of way. You think like me and therefore, you must be right!!

  • gary olander - seattle

    Having cooked most of my life as a professional , I would like to share my favorite quote

    ‘ Cooking is the art of loving something to the point of supreme eadibility;
    alan watts

  • craig

    I have to blame Anthony Bourdain. Yep, I read Kitchen Confidential and thought “F**k YES!” this is what I want to do, so I did. I have been cooking professionally now for nine years and I am still as fanatical about cooking as ever. I am 29 and a Sous Chef in Colorado.

  • gb

    I cook because:
    -it takes me back to my little Granny’s kitchen where I first learned the craft and love of cooking
    -it is the way I unwind
    -my husband would only provide take out food which is like eating cardboard
    -it gives me purpose
    -I love to eat
    -I love the bond it builds between people
    -it brings me joy

  • Badger

    My reasons:
    1. Because I like to eat.
    2. Because two members of my family have food allergies and it’s just safer to cook from scratch than to risk giving them prepared/processed food that might be improperly labeled (“natural flavoring”? WTF IS THAT?)
    3. Because, after cooking for a while for the above two reasons, I have fallen in love with food — growing it, buying it, preparing it, feeding people with it, etc.
    4. Because I’m a bit of a science geek and the chemical reactions involved in cooking give me a little thrill.
    5. Because walking into the kitchen, pouring a glass of wine, turning on some music (I like Zee Avi when I cook, dunno why), grabbing stuff out of the fridge/pantry, assembling my mise, and getting to work on dinner has become an essential, much-loved, and much-looked-forward-to part of my daily routine.

  • Henry

    I started to cook because: It seemed like a better job than dishwasher, busboy, or waiter.
    I continue to cook because: I grew into loving it. I’m pretty darn good at it. It makes other people happy as well.
    Last and certainly not least: It puts bread on the table, both literally and figuratively.

    What I cook for a living has nothing whatsoever to do with what I enjoy cooking when feeding family and friends, but it is, in the end all cooking and enjoyable.

  • Al Webster

    I cook because I love food that tastes good, is reasonably priced, and is good for you. Now I learned to cook at a very young age because Mom said…”You don’t want to have to depend on a woman to eat well.” She may just have been laying the ground work for my future spouse to get out of cooking….

  • Ben

    I started cooking because I spent two years in China and started to miss western food. Chinese food is some of the best in the world, but sometimes you want some pulled pork bbq, fresh flour tortillas or just some chili. Since then I’ve continued cooking because I like to eat what I cook and for the satisfaction of watching my wife, family and friends enjoying what I’ve made.

  • Karen

    My grandmother was a good, plain cook and, even though the vegetables were cooked to death, her food was tasty. I would watch over the kitchen table and sometimes help (no counters; everything was done on the kitchen table). Nothing was written down. The best thing my mother made was an icebox cake, which I still do. Years passed, I became engaged and decided I would be the Best Homemaker (this was in the 50s). I took a cooking class (not hands on) and went home to practice. It was fun and it was interesting and I was a success. Then came Julia. This brought a whole meaning. This also brought a whole new set of knives and new condiments and herbs. The only thing my kids (the husband was gone by then) hated was the bouillabaisse. My skills grew and I was having fun. I have given my children a palate. The nest is empty and has been for a while. I now live in a condo with a small kitchen and I still cook and try new recipes. I can spend days in the kitchen and have a fine time doing so. From my grandmother, I learned food is love, from my mother I learned I should know how to cook, from various teachers I began to see how to do it and then built on that base. I enjoy the doing of it. My friends and family enjoy the eating of it. And this is why I cook. And I am still learning.

  • Stumptown Savoury

    Thanks for asking and inspiring, Michael. I cook for lots of reasons.

    I cook because I am fascinated by the seemingly-magical transformation of simple things; for example how flour, water, salt, and yeast mixed and heated produces bread.

    I cook because I love to eat, and I prefer to eat well. By cooking I have control over the quality of what I eat.

    I cook because I respect the food I eat and the people who work with Nature to produce it. Thank you, farmers. I have tried my best to grow things, and I’ve often come reasonably close to minor success. It astounds me that farmers can be successful with regularity. They work harder than anyone I know of, usually for ridiculously insignificant returns, and I can not survive without them. To honor their labor, I need to pay attention to what I am doing, and cook with as much skill as I can.

    I cook because I derive great pleasure and satisfaction from carefully selecting ingredients, then combining them to produce the most delicious, nourishing meal I can. Is there anything more nurturing than to provide another person with the sustenance they need to live, and to make it a pleasure for them to enjoy? Is there anything more loving than to use all your skills and senses in the preparation of that meal? For me, the answer is no, which is why I can honestly say that I cook because I love.

  • Chefmikeb93

    Why i cook….

    Its hard to narrow down to just one paragraph but im going to do my best.

    Simply to honor my culture and my family. To show people the ambience that i grew up with , the most memorable expiernce of my life is watching my grandfather cook. He loved i,t with a glas of scotch in one hand and his other hand checking the doneness of the pork. After the food was done he would watch as everyone enjoyed his food , they would laugh and dance. I fell in love with that feeling much like he did , the look on a persons face after you cook them a meal is always diffrent depending on the person. But it gives me that feeling im sure my grandafther shared when i was younger.

    I am a Nuevo latino chef and i believe honoring my past ( culture , country etc ) will educate people to where we came from.

  • Nancy

    I started being interested in cooking because Julia Child’s show came on just before “Dark Shadows” after I got home from grade school. FYI yes, I’m THAT old.

    – I love to cook because I love to eat,
    – I love to cook because I love to make delicious things for people I love,
    – I love to cook because I love prep. Nothing makes me happier than a big pile of veg to dice or a mise to ‘place’,
    – I love to cook because I like attention (can’t lie, I love the performance art and the praise),
    – I love to cook when I’m riffin’ like a sax player and it ends up tasting AMAZING!
    – I love to cook because since all of my sisters do too (so does my best friend) and we have a wonderful time together.

  • NadaKiffa

    Hmm! good question!
    Well I cook because I come from Morocco and every girl learns how to cook!
    Besides, everybody was cooking in our house.. My father made good fusions and was good in french cooking..
    Then I started travelling and lived abroad, I opened up to other cuisines especially the middle eastern, indian and pan-asian. Then it became a serious thing because now I travel to discover the cultures through the food..Because I’m muslim, I even learned how to substitute some ingredients and not loose the taste of the orginal recipe.
    The love of cooking pushed me to start a blog (in french only for time being) and got me hooked: I seriously consider to join a culinary school and change my career! Just a matter of time.
    So from my first crepes flipping with dad and genoise making at 11 years old.. I guess I went a long way.

  • Romney Steele

    I grew up at a restaurant property, and my favorite place was in the kitchen, standing besides the cooks or my grandmother, and baking cakes among other things. I cook today, because, well-yes I have to as the mom and only parent, and because I work in the profession, but that’s really not why.

    I cook because I do really love to; the kitchen is the place where I find solace–in the chopping, zesting, folding, tasting, trying new flavors…I love the colors and shape of food, the stories behind ingredients and recipes, the sharing with your friends and family; the journey(s) one can take through making something new are immeasurable and a wonderful escape. Cooking gives me great pleasure, as simple as that.

  • Sabrina

    I cook because it makes me happy and sometimes it challenges me. It reminds me of good times and even sad times. I cook because I can always find my focus in a kitchen. I cook because it shows people I care and brings people together. I cook because it is who I am.

  • Sharon Miro

    I read every single one of these, and they made me cry a little too. And because such passion and soul was put into these answers, they have pretty much covered all the bases. My comments would simply be gilding the lily. And once starting to exoress it, I might not be able to stop.

    I cook, well, because, to not cook is unthinkable.

  • Emily

    I cook because:

    (1) It is a meditative practice, to do multiple things yet focus on only one at a time.
    (2) I love the conviviality of “being at the table” with friends and family.
    (3) It makes the house smell like a home.
    (4) It is one of the most intimate gifts you can give–something a person uses to nourish him/herself (nourishment being both physical and spiritual).
    (5) I love to eat!

  • Domenica

    A novelist once told me that she could no more stop writing than she could stop breathing. That pretty much sums up I feel about cooking.

  • Czarra

    I cook not only because I have such a passion for food, wine, and good taste but also because of love.
    I cook to remember..I cook because it reminds me of my father who passed away unexpectedly when I was very young. Its something he loved to do as well as something we both shared. I figured, if I can at least cook as well as him, I’d remind others that he still lives through me.

  • Lara Starr

    Reasons to:
    * Makes me and others happy
    * Sense of pride, “Heck yeah I made that!”
    * Connection to those who came before me (Great-grandma’s latkes)

    Reasons not to:
    * I hate doing dishes
    * Sometimes by the time a big meal is done, I’m over it
    * My picky son is largely unimpressed by my efforts

  • Rhonda


    Love the new look and vibrant colours. However, the print is very small.

    Michael, can you read this without your glasses?

    Ruhls, we still got Game. Don’t make it harder than it should be.

  • Lisa

    Why I love to cook? Because it….
    1. makes me incredibly happy
    2. is my special gift that I can give to others to make them happy
    3. is relaxing and meditative
    4. enables me to release my creativity
    5. allows my passion for learning to be a lifetime journey
    6. satisfies my love of eating great food
    7. brings family and friends together
    8. one of the special ways I express my love to others (especially my husband)
    9. fills the house with amazing aromas
    10. is a new adventure each day

  • Kate Little

    Why I cook.
    I cook because the best memories of my childhood involve people sitting around a table filled with food.
    I cook because I moved to Italy when I was 19 and prepackaged food was unheard of.
    I cook because 21 years later I still live in Italy and everyday the food I make is the love letter that I give to my husband and son
    I cook because I respect the food that I grow and buy in the markets.
    I cook because I feel it gives me a creative outlet.
    I cook because it is hard for me to say ‘I love you’, ‘You’re a great friend’ or ‘You are very special to me’ but it is easy to spend all day in the kitchen making something that I know that person enjoys, just for them.
    I cook because I want my son to be healthy and appreciate what he eats.
    I cook because I love to eat.

  • Kathryn McGowan

    Thanks Michael for asking this question, it was very inspiring.

    Cooking is a magical window onto other cultures. I write about food history so for me it’s also a window onto the past. Researching and cooking dishes from other countries and other eras is a way of traveling through time and space without leaving the confines of my kitchen.

    I wrote a more detailed response on my blog, click my name above to visit.

  • rockandroller

    I grew up being shown how to cook so that I could take care of myself, just like how I was shown how to stand on a stool and run the washer and dryer at a young age. My Mother never wanted either me or my sister to be dependent on anyone else and she always stressed that taking care of yourself was important. But she had a love of cooking that was different than most mothers – I remember wathing lots of Julia Child with her, and different experiments she’d try, within the confines of the picky eaters in my family (most notably me, but also my Dad), which was no easy feat. Additionally, we were extremely poor. Eating out was a rare and special treat and usually somewhere really cheap like a local diner for coney dogs and fries. And thirdly, my Dad was from a traditional Greek family and the women were expected to cook all the food, and to cook it from scratch; my Mom made homemade yogurt every week, made bread weekly, and everything was from scratch. There was a strong belief that any kind of packaged/convenience foods were not only a big waste of money for the amount of food you got, but they were also far inferior to the “real” food you could make yourself, so we had almost nothing like that in the house. Mom came from a cooking family that also cooked out of financial necessity (try supporting a family with 5 children and a sick uncle on one income during the depression and you’d make everything from scratch too), where pies were made regularly for dessert, fruits were made into jelly, fresh veggies were canned to last through the winter, etc. So it’s a tradition that’s been handed down to me since I was born.

    When I started college, I was amazed at how bad the food was. I remember being really homesick and wanting my mom’s fried chicken and crying in my room, the food was just so bad in the dining hall, I couldn’t believe it. I called my Mom and asked her how do I make your mac and cheese (not traditional – Greek influenced, with cottage cheese, feta and parm instead of an orangy/cheese sauce) and her telling me step by step how to make it. I took the bus to Goodwill and got an appropriate pan, sold my food coupons to buy some real groceries and baked that mac and cheese in the little oven on the floor of my dorm. I was amazed and so impressed with myself and so pleased to eat good food again, it was just the start of a long journey of cooking.

    Now I primarily cook because, um, we’re hungry and want to eat? Also, finances continue to play a big role in it; our dining scene in Cleveland gets better and better, but even a cheap meal out is way more than what we’d spend making it at home, so dining out continues to be a “treat” that we enjoy occasionally instead of daily, or even weekly. Lastly, most of the food we make at home is so much better than what we get out, there’s no point in going out. When I say “better,” I don’t mean that it’s prepared with gourmet ingredients or presented with a flourish, but it’s with real, unprocessed ingredients chosen with care by us – locally raised meats, local or organic produce whenever possible, no corn syrup laden, overly salty fast food for us, thanks.

  • Carrie Havranek

    I cook because it is sometimes the only thing that makes sense after a long, frustrating day; eating a good dinner is like hitting a reset button. I cook because I have the opportunity to share foods for the first time with my twin toddler boys and to see the look on their faces when they try something. So, I also cook because I love. I cook because it is the opportunity to create something beautiful, delicious, and soul-satisfying with few ingredients. I cook because it brings people into the kitchen and starts a conversation. I cook because it is soothing; just predictable enough. I cook because I want to use everything in the fridge and cabinets, to beat the clock of spoilage. And more practically, I’m doing a lot of the cooking because I get home first.

  • Chuck McLean

    Odd that I didn’t read this until today, because yesterday as I was preparing osso bucco for the first time, it occurred to me that one of the reasons I cook is because it makes me feel competent. Never cooked a veal shank in my life, but I understood the cooking techniques involved and what was supposed to happen, and how to make sure that it did. Of course, this ain’t the hardest dish in the world to make, and I didn’t get so confident overnight, but there is just a remarkable difference between being sure and unsure during every step of making a meal. You could have given me the French Laundry Cookbook twenty years ago and it would have been like giving Voltaire in the original French to a first year student, but I GET it now.

    The osso bucco was fabulous, BTW.

    Chuck McLean

  • Stacey

    I cook because I love caring for myself (and others when I get the chance) in this way. Cooking connects you to the food and therefore with others in an intimate, nourishing way. Also, cooking is such a creative outlet — it’s just as fun as writing or painting!

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    The cycle of things …

    I compost because I love turning waste into something. I garden because I have all of this lovely compost. I cook because I have all of this lovely produce from my garden. I compost because I create all of this organic waste from cooking from scratch. Ad infinitum.

  • Tom

    I cook for many reasons. However, the great pleasure of it for me is how cooking can transport me back in time to some of my fondest memories.

    Recently, I decided Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon. The meal was good enough, but something amazing happened the day after. I went to reheat some leftovers in my office for lunch and suddenly I breathed in the glorious smell and was instantly brought back to one of my favorite childhood restaurants, the New York Spaghetti House in Cleveland. My grandfather would have lunch there every Saturday, along with his high school friends. They ate there together, weekly, for probably forty years. For some magical reason, my reheated Beef Bourguignon smelled intoxicatingly close to the meat sauce that they used to serve at that restaurant. It was a smell and sense that I hadn’t experienced in years, as the restaurant closed and I moved away. However, for a blinking moment, I could almost feel myself standing in the back room of that basement restaurant, sitting next to my grandfather. I may cook for many reasons, but moments like these just take my breath away.

    I brought the tupperware home for my wife to inhale the heavenly aroma, but she just thought that I was crazy!

    And if anybody could ever track down the old meat sauce recipe from the New York Spaghetti House in Cleveland, please post it somewhere for me!

  • The Rowdy Chowgirl

    I started cooking again several years ago in order to care for myself better during a time of transition. Cooking had become a chore, to be gotten through as quickly as possible with the help of Trader Joe’s. I realized that if I didn’t take care of myself, nobody was going to do it for me, so I slowed down and started focusing on putting healthful, whole foods into my body.

    There are about a million other reasons that I continue to cook…this may need to become a post on my own blog…thanks for the inspiration!

  • marlene

    I began cooking because it was a great way to spend time with my father and brother, both of whom were avid cooks. I cook now, because for me, cooking is not only a passion, but a form of relaxation and of fun. It is also an expression of caring. I cook because its as close as I can get to sharing a piece of myself with family and friends. When I offer them something I’ve made, I’m offering them a part of me. If that makes any sense. It’s caring enough to give them the best I can offer. And caring enough to be willing to take the time to make it so. During my brother’s illness, I cooked for him, because that was the best way I knew to care for him and support him. I cook when I’m happy, I cook when I’m sad. Sometimes it’s even more important that I cook when I’m sad. It’s therapy. My brother and mom passed away not so long ago, my father, many years ago. I worked my way through those losses by making the most complicated things I could find, which hopefully, included a lot of chopping. Each year, on the anniversary of their death’s, I celebrate their lives by making a dish that was their favourite. My brother’s was raspberry pie. Dad’s was prime rib, Mom’s favourite thing was ribs and saurkraut. Nothing fancy, but those dishes are “theirs”. I cook and I remember and I love. And those dishes, as are all the dishes I make for my family and friends are made with love, perhaps the most powerful ingredient of all. That’s it for me in a nutshell.

  • John

    I started cooking as a child because I wanted to eat and I often stayed at home alone. My mother spoiled me by being an excellent cook, so I wanted to emulate that. As I got older, I cooked less until I lived on my own in College. Now, as an adult, I cook for the challenge. I cook to learn. I cook for the accomplishment. No to mention it’s a valuable skill for a single person.

  • Jane

    This was actually written for my application to the French Culinary Institute, which I began this past January…

    By the age of 38, a person hopefully has noted the significance in certain patterns…the personal consistencies of behavior that function necessarily to help you find solace and preserve joy throughout difficult experiences. For many people, these expressions of the soul take such obviously profound shapes as the prayers of the faithful. Perhaps my soul is not so profound, but it is mine, and it has taken me 38 years to finally understand that my expressions tend to take on the shapes of cookies, cakes, chocolates and great cups of coffee.

    When I was a small child, most of the years’ seasons were defined by my Mother taking my sister and I on a tour of food possibilities. What to my Mother was frugal practicality and just plain fun, became the foundation of my most cherished memories. The farm in our small town where we ourselves picked the fresh produce of any particular season knew to expect us like clockwork. Summer memories are replete with luscious strawberries and peaches that we would ‘help’ Mother turn into all manner of desserts, jams, jellies and preserves. From an even more local source, we’d wander the woods in our own backyard filling baskets with wild blueberries destined for pancakes and muffins. My Mother’s garden was quite the proud sight…..tall sunflowers, beautiful red bell peppers, cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes, to name just a few…all outlined with blooming flowers…and the wild onions seemed to grow absolutely everywhere in our yard! Autumns, of course, meant apple and pear picking along with pumpkins and all variety of squash which would find their ways into pies, dessert breads and dinner side dishes.

    Winters; however, were anticipated by my sister and myself with the kind of excitement that only fresh from the oven cookies can generate. We would beg to make cookies earlier and earlier every year because unlike, for example, the careful requirements in preserving fruits which would preclude our hands on involvement in most preparation, we were nearly completely in charge. My sister and I chose which cookies to make and when. We carefully chose the frosting and sprinkle decorations with a very serious sense of fun. We would bake for weeks and give them as presents – all manner of gingerbread and sugar cut-outs, peanut butter, chocolate chip, pecan sandies, popcorn balls, and at least 10 other kinds of cookies…new recipes every year!

    As all things inevitably change, this happy cycle was not exactly broken…yet was radically altered when my Mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 27. She made sure we felt as if the Multiple Sclerosis were actually a gift to us, because without it we surely would not be trusted at such young ages to do such ‘important’ cooking. My sister, 10 years old at the time, was able to handle the more grown up responsibilities of sterile fruit preservation, cutting with sharp knives and cooking with heat. I, at the age of 7 and feeling as if I’d won the million dollar lottery, eagerly assumed control of all cookie preparation.

    Years would pass this way, with the act of cookie making becoming more simply a fun seasonal task that I’d look forward to yearly as homework and socializing time requirements…and coffee…took precedence, resulting in a shrinking of my cookie repertoire to: Nestle Toll House, sugar, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies. This changed when my teen years reached the full crescendo of sturm und drang that only teenage years can achieve. I had a very difficult time and found myself wearing black lipstick and combat boots while baking Toll House cookies as if I were possessed. For about three years I would tinker with the recipe, ultimately altering it utterly, baking a double batch of cookies at least twice a week for family, friends and charities. That was the first time I was told that perhaps baking was something I should pursue…I disregarded that as I somehow believed one could only make a living if they worked in the financial world like my Father.

    Eventually I went to college and did enter my Father’s financial world….but quickly married in, left the working world, welcomed our first child and took care of my in-laws up until their deaths. I returned to work (generally telecommuting) until my company’s office, which was located in the World Trade Center, was destroyed on 9/11. My husband worked in the South Tower and went through the entire experience. We lost many, many friends that day.

    We eventually welcomed a second child, and the years that had passed since getting married were filled with love and family but were equally full of compounding stress, grief and sorrow…and a hollow feeling scooped out of my center that somehow, I’d not been doing what I should. It seemed to me merely a selfish complaint that I felt utterly frustrated with my husband, children and in-laws (who lived with us) for practically demanding all food be as canned, boxed, bland and highly processed as technologically possible. My Mother-In-Law’s idea of ‘homemade’ spaghetti sauce would be to add a half pound of sugar to a simmering jar of Ragu brand tomato sauce, seriously. Worse yet, I was generally expected to replicate that style of food preparation. I felt obligated to honor the constraints of the needs and preferences of my family, in nearly every area.

    My husband and I grew apart, and we separated. For months I existed in a frightened haze, planning a new life for myself that was to include a return to a career in the financial world, certain that I needed a new life but not so sure if the particular one I was planning was the one I needed to be living. I genuinely felt as if I were walking with no earth beneath my feet, and it was terrifying.

    I believed that there were very few things I was doing ‘right’ to help my children through the strains of the separation, but there was one thing I knew would never fail: cookies. I found a way to keep an open connection with my children in our kitchen, once again altering a chocolate chip cookie recipe till it truly became my own creation. We baked cakes, brownies and cupcakes…played with chocolates and visited local confectioners to watch professionals create. I personally rediscovered the one place where the world always made sense to me, where the ground was solid beneath me and I could make something wonderful with love and a spatula.

    Separately, my husband also found his way into the kitchen with our children, whipping up their own tea parties and magnificent sugary masterpieces. My husband and I rebuilt our love and friendship and my admiration for his culinary efforts soon led to elaborate dinners planned to satisfy in new ways his preexisting preferences and to interest him in new flavors. He reciprocated by running through the rain during a business trip in Zurich, Switzerland to the main Sprüngli shop just to bring me some of the most delicious chocolates on earth…and tolerating the elegantly snooty staff at Ladurée in Paris so that I could taste the spring’s seasonal bergamot macaroons. He took me to the coffee shops he’d prefer not to go to, and rather than just grabbing a coffee for me to go….sat with his own cup of tea.

    I realized that I was married to the man of my dreams and planned out of practicality rather than passion to return to the financial business world and simply enjoy the sense of purpose I have in the kitchen by cooking for friends and family as a serious hobby. I simply never thought my pursuing a career in the culinary arts was a practical choice for our family. My husband; however, knows the shape of my soul and thought differently. He says he sees happiness in my every movement when I’m hard at work in a kitchen and even more joy when my efforts are consumed, and he’s right. He suggested I return to the never forgotten place where my college graduation party had been held…and to return now as an eager student of The French Culinary Institute rather than as a grateful dinner guest of L’Ecole.

  • David Owen

    I started cooking because after many years I finally had enough money to buy some groceries.

  • Tish

    I started cooking in self defence – Mum was an indifferent cook – discovered the pleasure of feeding people including myself and never stopped.

  • Kim

    This complex question has been posed to food bloggers by Michael Ruhlman. Since I learned of it, I have been mulling my answer, wanting to dig deeper. My standard answer is “to show my love”, but since I have had a fascination/love affair with cooking since I was very young, the answer has to go deeper.

    I loved cooking when I was small. When my mom would let me go into the kitchen and “cook” cheerios, water, flour and gum. (My first invented recipe). I enjoyed it when I competed for 6 years in 4-H competitions, learning the correct way to make cookies, all the way up to yeast rolls.

    Cooking started to be connected to my emotions when I wanted to make “romantic” dinners for my high school boyfriend. I would peruse my mom’s cookbooks for “fancy” foods, serving them in our family room on a tablecloth covered card table. And we would wear dress clothes. We were soooo grown up!

    As I got older, moved away from the Midwest and began to discover a world of unexplored food, cooking became a way for me to try new cuisines. As I would be exposed to something new, I wanted to learn how to make it. I wanted to learn its historical origins. I wanted to learn the components that meld together to make it a true dish.And, when exploring the depths of my soul, I have discovered I have control issues. When I cook, I plan the menu and make the ultimate decision which flavors hit our mouths. I think I like this!

    Also I find cooking:

    A good creative outlet


    I have met some of my best friends through the love of cooking. Some of them I have never seen in person, yet we share a bond across state and country borders.

    And my husband? He has re-fueled my passion for all things food. His enthusiasm for whatever I make provides a “fun” in meal-planning and prep that I had lost for a few years.

    So down to the basics?

    I cook to show my love.

  • Andra @ FrenchPressMemos

    Beautiful question.

    I cook because, as one of my last blog posts details, my kitchen is the heart of our home. There, I unwind, create, relax, share, craft, and give. It is where I honor my Romanian upbringing and where I feel comfortable both being my (type-A) self while chopping vegetables in perfect shapes and sizes and letting go and watching as a pan of spinach wilts down slowly and evenly while I stir.

    I cook because cooking is magic and mesmerizing. Watching food come together to create incredible flavors, beautiful scents, whistling sounds, delicious sights, and thrilling tastes is what makes me smile.

    I cook because sharing my food is the deepest sign of trust and love.

  • michael hart

    I began cooking in college, telling roomates I’ll do the dinners, and you guys do the dishes. They ate well, and no dishes/pots/pans were ever clean! Now 36 years later, with sojourns and work time in Boston, Europe and San Francisco, I’m still working as a chef and enjoying it.

  • Jessica

    I am oldest of 6 and grew up in a macrobiotic home, I cooked because I wanted to eat tasty food! I cook now because I want to feed my family healthy tasty food. I like knowing my food-the who what and why of it. I feel like the love I have for my family is expressed through my homemade chicken stock that takes 24 hours to make, the new recipes I try (even if they’re not always winners) and the chocolate cake with hot pink frosting for birthdays-cries out my love for them. I cook because I don’t want the insidious ingredients food companies use, to contaminate our bodies and land. I love to cook.

    Like your mama always said-you are what you eat-bon appetite!

  • Rose

    Great post….

    This is something I think about frequently, particularly when I cook. I began cooking as a way to combine my need for a creative outlet with my need to keep myself out of trouble. I was coming out of a rough time in life and needed to find something to occupy my time after the workday. Idle hands are not capable in the kitchen.

    Cooking is a zen-like practice for me. I chop, slice, clean and stir all with the same quiet, peaceful motions while my mind tumbles through whatever it needs to sort its way through. I find it meditative and calming.

    Out of this springs an ability to nourish those I love. To inspire others to raise a basic necessity (eating) to a level of importance. To care what goes in one’s body, to care about how it affects the planet, to care about your place in the world and to create a time in the day in which you honor all of those things through a meal.

  • Romona

    I love to read your blog though I don’t always comment .

    The one and most important reason I love to cook is the ability to be creative.

    Example: How many ways can you prepare rice? I believe the sky is the limit.

  • Jenny

    No one ever expected me to cook, being an only child and my mother just LOVING to do it for me, so I cook as an experiment. I cook to discover what different combination of things taste like, and hopefully produce something that tastes amazing when least expected and thinking, “wow, I can’t believe I just put peanut butter into stew and it’s GREAT.” I do it for the surprise.

  • Dax Phillips

    Great post, and something I get asked quiet a bit. My parents were always in the kitchen, and granted we were brought up eating out every Friday night for a Wisconsin Fish Fry, and something I learned early on was their passion for bringing our family around the kitchen table. As we waited for our dinner, I was always curious about how things were prepared before they landed on our plates. As I traveled around a bit, and after living in a more ethnic diverse city such as Dallas, Texas, I was inspired to try all kinds of different cuisines, and fell in love with pretty much all of it. While I matured a bit, and got married, I began to instill those same ideas of gathering around the table and exploring tastes and flavors that I experienced over the years. Unfortunately, when we did go out to eat at a restaurant, we were, on average, disappointed in the quality of food, and really began doing a lot more in our kitchen. So for the last ten years or so, we are always gathered around the kitchen table, every night, enjoying different meals, and exploring different flavors. Cooking has brought me to a place where I am stress free, allows me to multitask (I have a night where the kids call out what they want for dinner, and I have to make it), and it allows me to be creative. Something that I truly love.

  • katalia

    I cook because I like to cook, and I like to see my loved ones eat my food. I cook because I can use fresh ingredients and know what goes into my food. I cook because it’s not hard for me to do. I cook because it challenges me and serves as a creative outlet. I cook because I like to eat good food. I cook because my father was a chef and cooking makes me feel closer to him — I frequently consult him regarding cooking, and I like that it gives us something to talk about. I cook because it relaxes me and makes me happy. In another life, I would like to cook for people as a profession — that’s how much I love it!

  • Sustainable Eats

    I started cooking as a child because I was fed up with Hamburger Helper and boxed breakfast cereal.

    Now that I have kids I’m sickened by the ingredients in processed food and refuse to buy it. I took out the lawn and planted a garden and orchard in the city. We got backyard chickens and I buy any grains, meat, milk or cheese directly from farmers. I mill the grain and make everything from scratch.

    My kids, 6 and 3, help plan the garden and the menus. They are totally connected with their food and while I can’t say they don’t miss McDonald’s or boxed breakfast cereal I don’t hear any complaints about it.

  • Elvia

    You know I’m not right if I don’t want to cook.

    Cooking is art: creating something out of nothing.

    I love the expressions on my family’s face when I cook something really delicious for them. They express a gratitude unlike any other; I have nourished and pampered them at the same time.

    Cooking is a little bit scientific…and I love to explore different methods of doing things and their results.

    Cooking makes me feel closer to the essence of life. It is, after all, food. But when you are really creative and spiritual about being in the kitchen, it is more than just food–it’s life.

    And, lastly and most importantly, too many people these days don’t know where their food comes from! Not only that, they don’t even know how it got made. Their is a misconception that cooking is “hard”, but those of us who cook know how untrue that is. Cooking is awareness, then, and also self sufficiency.

    And, I must repeat: Cooking is Rock ‘n Roll!!!!!! I loved that statement!

  • john atkinson

    when i cook i travel. every dish i make takes me to a place i’ve been before trough smell, taste, texture & the general alchemy of cooking. carbonara takes me to osteria alfred in rome. anything with ham & egg & i am 5 yrs old sitting on the end of the hot line @ petes on catalina island. when i eat queso fondito i see the 16 yr old maid my grandmother had @ her house in jalisco making tortillas on the porch. my pizza & i am in positano @ saraceno de oro looking out on the bay of naples. food is magic like a time machine for the soul. oh yeah, when i fuck up an egg over easy i am transported into the body of ruhlman & his never ending shame spiral @ cia so many years ago. fucking bi bim bap!

  • kdblya

    I do love to chop. When I am stressed, I chop. It starts out as frenetic motion, but as I calm down it becomes more meditative.

  • Dean

    I’ve cooked for a long time because at first it was something to do that was immediately rewarding. As I got better, I appreciated cooking as means to share with others. The most rewarding reason to cook came after making homemade chicken soup for my daughter who was ill, she wrote this poem:

    The Jewish Cure for Everything

    Head aching with high fever, skin pale
    Brown hair falling, unbrushed around flushed, hot cheeks My yearly childhood
    flu… A familiar smiling face arrives bedside, a bowl of Steaming chicken noodle
    soup in his large, brown hand “Just the way you like it!”
    My father’s comforting words
    I right myself, sipping my soup
    He sits beside me, small green book in hand “Tiger, tiger burning bright, in the
    forest of the night… ”
    He starts
    “… what immortal hand or eye” I listen…
    “Could frame thy fearful symmetry”
    Chicken noodle soup and poetry
    my father calls, the Jewish cure for everything

    After that, I’ll always enjoy cooking

  • Darcie

    I can’t draw, I can’t sing, I can’t play a musical instrument – but I can cook and bake. It’s my creative outlet: edible art.

  • Salty

    I started cooking because I needed a job. I discovered I was very good at it. I’ve been cooking professionally ever since. (Going on 35 years) For me it’s not about food, it’s about the job.

  • Jen at theculinaryworks.com

    What a great question, it really got me thinking all the way back. I started cooking because my mother made cooking fun and creative! She would make up dishes based on what was available in the kitchen. I’m certain this was due mostly to economics, but her chosen approach made it a positive experience for all of us. It may have been fried ground beef with peppers and onions with a bit of a gravy over toast BUT when she served it, it was The Famous Gold Miner Special…or some other silly name. She gave me permission to experiment in the kitchen. I would dig through the spice drawer, smelling them all, trying to decide what to put it…and she just let me choose. I am definately going to call her tonight and thank her for inspiring my creativity and starting what not only became a life long love affair with cooking, but also my career! Thank you for the memories Mr. Ruhlman.


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