Hobby Time: Cooking12 Feb 2017
Working on your main work all day might fulfill some people entirely, and to be honest, it fits the bill most of the time for me. Sometimes, though, I want to do something else, but to do something more than just rot and watch TV. My main hobby of choice is cooking. I’m hoping I can expand on other hobbies in the future and explain what they mean to me.
But you’re a weird programmer why do you like food you should just drink Soylent right?
Lots of engineers will admit to liking cooking (though the common opinions and assumptions about engineers might indicate otherwise) if you ask them. I think it’s a great escape from a work of precision and discrete implementations. While recipes are important (and precision can come into play, particularly in the realm of baking) cooking appeals to me because I have more leeway in how I’m going to operate; it’s one of those “the journey matters as much as the destination” things, unlike much of the programming world.
I love having a basket of new ingredients in front of me, and to consider how they might play together. All my life I’ve been interested in strange combinations of flavors (too strange – in a bad way – for the mainstream pallette, or so I would assume), and so finding discipline for those interests by way of formal cooking has been nice.
So, pizza, then?
As you, savvy reader, may have seen on this blog before, one of my favorite things to cook is pizza. Some folks are very particular about how they do their pizza. Namely, precision in the composition of a dough. I’m a little more freewheeling than that, and I just like to eyeball the right amount of yeast and sugar, water and flour, etc. It’s an experiment, but not the kind of rigid, well-organized experiment you’d have in a lab. More like a toddler experimenting with a puddle of mud.
I like being that toddler, at least in the kitchen. When I’m cooking, everything is new to me, every time. Every steak is going to sear differently. Every batch of cookies is going to have its own character. Clearly that wouldn’t work well in a commercial kitchen, but at home it’s great fun.
If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?
My spouse has asked me a number of times whether I would prefer to quit my job and go to culinary school. Perhaps, one day, I will. But then I wouldn’t be having the same fun. I wouldn’t be experimenting as much. Who knows, though; my opinion will likely change in the future.
Cooking isn’t just for you, of course, either. Sustenance is one of the core requirements of caring for a human being. At its most basic (and perhaps sardonic) level, cooking for someone is demonstrating that you value their existence and wish to continue it. It’s an example of deep caring for someone else, I believe, and I make sure that I keep that in mind as I prepare any meal, for any group of people.
My advice to anyone learning to cook
- Approach the kitchen with curiosity.
- Watch the entirety of Alton Brown’s Good Eats
- Don’t take yourself so damn seriously. Your food is gonna suck.
- Watch a bunch of You Suck At Cooking
- Work on your knife skills first and foremost. Good knife skills make prep work a lot more fun. There’s a Good Eats episode that teaches a lot of knife work and care. Find it.
- Remember that the end result of messing up most likely will still taste great. Don’t sweat the presentation until you’ve got it tasting awesome.
- Try to make time to explore the produce and butcher sections of your supermarket, or better yet, visit a local butcher shop and farmers market to see what’s fresh and tasty.
- Whenever you cook, think to yourself about ways you could change it in the future. Recipes are a starting-off point, not a gospel
- Put your love (figuratively, please) into your food. It’s cheesy but people respond to it.
Thanks for reading. Hope I can ramble more on the subject soon.