Once upon a time, not that long ago, I was a bachelor who cooked about every once in a blue moon. It wasn’t that I couldn’t cook (I spent enough time working in kitchens to figure that part out), or that I didn’t like cooking (once it stopped being a job), but rather I just never saw the benefit of spending so much time in the kitchen to prepare a meal that would be scarfed down in about ten minutes, likely either while standing up, or while in front of a screen.
Those days are gone. Now, in a typical week, I will cook at least three times.
Here are a few of the reasons I started cooking regularly:
1) When you’re cooking for more than one, it feels much more rewarding.
It definitely helps that instead of scarfing down a meal alone, I’m usually enjoying it in the company of the most important people in my life. Not only does this make the meal time itself more enjoyable, but the act of making something for someone you care about is rewarding and fulfilling.
2) I recognized the health benefits of cooking.
I have never been an unhealthy eater. I don’t have a sweet tooth, and I don’t avoid green things. As such, even when I wasn’t doing any of my own cooking, I still sought out “good” food. However, as it turns out, no matter how “good” the food you think you’re getting is, it can never match the health benefits of anything you cook at home. Pre-prepared foods are loaded with preservatives, and restaurant meals generally use much more salt and fats than you would normally use at home. There’s a number of places where you can read about the benefits of cooking at home, but I’d suggest starting with just about anything by Michael Pollan (who I recently heard described as a “food philosopher”).
3) It tastes better.
There was a point earlier this year when I was stressed and stretched for time, and the idea of getting home after a long day of work and starting to cook felt like just another chore on top of everything else. A colleague introduced me to a reasonably priced catering service that would deliver freshly prepared meals to me once per week and all I’d have to do was heat them up. I was ecstatic. The food choices were varied, and because they were freshly prepared, they seemed to be almost as healthy as things I would have prepared at home.
I used the service for about a month, then skipped a week, then two, and then didn’t go back. In the end, I realized that I just preferred my own cooking. As good as the service was, I realized that the dishes were always missing something. Which, I suppose, is only normal when you’re trying to satisfy dozens of different palates. My own food I could make taste however I wanted.
4) I figured out how to remove the stress from cooking.
It took me a long time to figure this out, but one of the things that stressed me out the most about cooking wasn’t cooking itself, but it was the preparation. Getting home after a long day of work, then deciding what to make when your cognitive abilities are already exhausted, realizing you need something, going to the store and then getting down to the work of cooking was just too much. And so, I sought to solve the root cause of the problem: poor planning.
Enter Mealime. I don’t remember how I found the service, but I fell in love with it. Essentially, Mealime delivers you a meal plan for the entire week, along with a grocery list of all the items you’ll need for that week. Every recipe is supposed to take only 30 minutes to prepare (usually takes me closer to 45 minutes or an hour, but maybe I’m slow). The recipes are healthy and delicious. What’s better, unlike a catering service, once you’ve tried a recipe once you can adapt it to your own personal taste and make it that much better.
If you don’t cook, I encourage you to give some thought to the why. It might not be what you think. I won’t claim that cooking is for everyone, but for me at least, the act of creating something that I can enjoy with people I care about, and that sustains basic human needs definitely makes me happy.