When I grew up, my family had dinner together every single night. On the weekends, we had lunch together as well. During holidays, we sometimes even planned family breakfasts. All my meals growing up were prepared with love. My parents almost always cooked dinner (there were occasions of takeout food, but it wasn't often) and my school lunch was packed every single day by my mom.
For my sister's sixteenth birthday, my parents gave us our first real taste of “fine dining.” I will never forget it. We went to L'Auberge Chez Francois, and for the first time in our lives we saw a prix fixe menu and we excitedly experienced our first palate cleansers and had our cutlery changed with each new dish that arrived. Then, for my thirteenth birthday, we went to Le Grand Vefour in Paris, where our cloth napkins were replaced each time we got up and after dessert we were served a tray of complimentary petit fours. These experiences continued and grew, slowly, with dining out on vacations, birthdays, and special occasions. My parents exposed me to different types of foods and taught me how to appreciate the details that go into a dish.
But I don't just love the experience of eating food; I also love making it and sharing it with others.
There is a very big difference between giving someone a gift and giving someone food. For some reason, the act of giving food is a much deeper, more meaningful act. Part of it, I think, is that you have to put in effort and work, but another part of it is that by giving someone food, you are saying you matter, I want to take care of you. Think about it: would you ever make food for someone you didn't care about? No. Because food is love. And people understand that.
This idea that food is love has transformed me. It has given me peace. When I am stressed, when I am upset, when things are not going well in life, I find that cooking soothes me. In the kitchen, something just feels right. Perhaps it is the lingering feeling of love from all past meals, or maybe it is the warmth of the oven in the winter, or the coolness of the granite counter in the summer... but somehow the world just seems to settle down when I am cooking.
Cooking feels so natural. You don't have to think when you're in the kitchen; you just need to feel and to taste. You know when a dish is salty; your mouth will tell you. You can tell when a tomato is ripe; your hands will feel it. You can sense when bread is almost done baking; your nose will let you know.
Cooking may, at times, involve a recipe, but more often than not, for me it is about creativity and experimenting. The world may not always forgive you for your mistakes, but your food will. Dishes can always be fixed, tweaked, improved. An omission of an item here and an addition of something else there will not result in catastrophe. And best of all, the care that you put into what you make is always clear.
For all these reasons and more, I fell in love with food, with cooking, and with the experience of nourishing myself and others. I know that not everyone feels that same way I do, but for those of you who do, I hope to share this love with you, and for those of you who don't, I hope to open your eyes to a new world and to show you that food is love.