I read a poll recently that said for many cooking and food preparation are very important leisure activities. Eating food I understand. I like to eat and my gym membership proves the point. But, I will admit I have never been grabbed by the apron strings and found any joy in preparing a fancy meal.
To me, a meal is primarily about providing fuel for my body. Yes, I'd like it to be healthy whenever possible, though I am not a fanatic about what I will or will not eat. But, my experience with following an involved recipe boils down to this: spend 60-75 minutes cutting, sautéing, and otherwise preparing and cooking a meal that is then consumed in something under 15 minutes.
OK, so the answer is eat more slowly. Take my time. Savor the tastes and experience the meal as an event. But, now my time invested in providing fuel to my body is around 2 hours. That certainly qualifies as a leisure activity, but I am still missing the appeal.
Being open-minded about this subject I did a little research. I typed "cooking blogs" into Google and came up with over 93 million results. There appear to be literally thousands of different cooking magazines I could read. There are several cable TV networks that talk about food and cooking 24 hours a day. For millions of folks cooking is a hobby. To them, preparing a meal is a form of creative expression, sort of like painting with vegetables.
Obviously I am missing something. An activity this popular must have something going for it. I read several times that cooking for pleasure relieves stress. Again, I say I'm missing something. Cooking creates stress for me. Maybe I don't have the right utensils or mixing bowls, or something. Then, there is all that cleanup! Other sites talk about cooking is a way to show love to others. So is going to a fine restaurant and letting someone else do all that work.
Then, I found an article by a fellow who went from cooking as a necessity to cooking is a hobby. Apparently he loves to learn what various spices will do the taste of a dish. He likes trying all sorts of different kitchen gadgets. He reads the labels on ingredients and has become more health conscious, an important benefit for him and his family.
Now we are getting somewhere. Cooking to better control what you put in your body makes sense. Buying new gadgets, even if for the kitchen, sounds fun. But, I would probably draw the line at exotic spices in my shake and bake chicken recipe.
I need your input. Do you cook for fun? Do you enjoy preparing an occasional fancy meal for family or friends? Does all this chopping and boiling relax you? What is your position on this important topic? Is cooking a chore or a thrill?
I am on slow simmer while I await your comments.
Friday afternoon update: the response and comments have been strong enough I am going to take on the selection and preparation of a three course, fancy meal sometime in the near future. Look for a post about my experience, complete with pictures. It will be interesting!