At a lunch this week, we got to talking about cooking. The hostess commented that she really could not cook, only knew about 8 things that she could make. I questioned her on this, as we were sitting down to a lovely lunch she had prepared, and she went on to explain that there are 8 things she knows how to make by heart, but that for any other dish, she has to consult a recipe. Therefore, she felt she was not a cook. I beg to differ.
When I was growing up, my Mom did all the cooking, and to me, it seemed like she did it all from memory. Now I realize she was cooking the same stuff over and over, and when you do that, you can no longer need to consult a written recipe. However, she had a big box of recipes from her mother (my grandmother) and her own collection of cookbooks. Even though she cooked from memory, she still pulled out recipes for special occasions. And I still identify her as my earliest cooking mentor. A cook in my mind is someone who cares enough about who they are preparing a meal for to make the occasion special. So, if that involves a roasted chicken from CostCo, thrown together with a simple tomato salad, as long as it is made with positive intention for the consumer of the dinner (even if the cook is dining alone), I would call that a meal prepared by a cook.
Anyone can cook – anyone who can read a recipe, that is. Granted, depending on the author of the recipe, that can be a challenge in and of itself, but for most people, accompanied by a copy of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, reading a recipe and cooking is no more complex than reading a travel guide book to Hawaii.