Keeping the World in Your Kitchen

I’ve never been a foodie. I can’t tell you the difference between cooking with vegetable oil or olive oil, I rarely use measuring cups, and I’m still not sure how much pasta to throw in the pot for two people. However, I can tell you that nobody appreciates a gourmet meal quite like a kid who grew up on TV dinners.

When I was little and I would go to the grocery store with my mother, it seemed normal to just point out what microwave meals I wanted for the week. When I would eat them at the end of a long day, I would always feel empty, a little gross, and always hungry, hungry for something with a taste; with flavor.

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Turkish lunch from Istanbul 

Getting invited to other people’s homes for dinner was always a real treat, which was why I made it a point to get in the good graces of fat Italian mothers who made it all from scratch. In my head, they spent the day poring over cookbooks, stewing pots of homemade pastas and beating down tomatoes with their bare hands. At the end of the day they would emerge from their lairs, beautiful again, eager to present finely laid out meals to their happy families and their kid’s weird friend who may or may not have lived in a car.

However, living on your own finally gives you the opportunity to live life the way you imagined it from your pink bedroom. Besides learning how to pay bills, scream at conniving gas companies, and fix leaky roofs, I finally learned how to boil water and thus began my gourmet chefdom and eventual progression into the closest to adulthood that I will ever wander.

When I went to Italy for a few months when I was 21, my newfound obsession with cooking and creating was brought to a new level when I realized I wasn’t the only one. Unlike in America, when every Internet recipe screams “easy” and “quick,” Italian recipes whispered for dutiful chefs, qualitative cooking, rich spices, and savory, dark flavors.

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Blueberry steak from Acqua al due, Florence

Although it was an adjustment to learn how to walk slower and talk faster, catching onto the beauty of food was not difficult. Finally, not only could I enjoy these creamy and pungent foods on a daily basis, but I could also create them, following vague instructions in Italian I learned from Giancarlo in my Pairing Food with Wine class and mixing flavors and spices in pots in my tiny kitchen and hoping the oven would work that day. I could spend hours hunched over dishes, but more often than not, the time would fly by and before I knew it, it would unfortunately be the time to sweep up the flour and figure out what I was going to pack for lunch tomorrow.

Thankfully, it didn’t end there – in every country I went to, I would never balk at meats, tails, or goop staring back at me – instead, I would smile, dig in, and ask for seconds. Running around the world, I have yet to run into a dish I found truly disgusting, and instead, I jump at the chance to try whale at the local fish market in Bergen, eat bratwurst and roasted nuts at Oktoberfest, and dig away at fish heads in Brac.

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Seafood pasta dish from Split, Croatia

Back in America, I talk to people all day long who ate food for dinner that had already been cooked in a bag and they’re just grateful to have some time back in their lives; for themselves. But for me, cooking is for myself, whether I’m trying to recreate a Spanish paella, master the perfect bruschetta, or throw a bunch of stuff together that tastes strangely Creole.

Even if the world is keeping me at home, it will not keep the world out of my kitchen. By the time I finish cooking dinner and drinking wine it may be too late to do the laundry, clean my room, or watch some television, but I have yet to go to sleep hungry.

71 comments

  1. I’m so envious of people who can eat anything. I’m bound, by a disease, to a diet that I don’t particularly like nor want to live on! Sounds like you’re living the dream, kid. xo

  2. I love this blog post. I most certainly agree with you when it comes to cooking for yourself- not only do you feel more accomplished but it makes you appreciate the taste of the food so much more! :) You’ve inspired me to do some recipient based posts on my blog in the near future! Thank you :) stylecrossedlovers.com

  3. wow, excellent post! I try to create/cook just about every day, but until now, didn’t experiment much. You’ve inspired me to take the ‘culinary flights’ even when the real thing hasn’t happened in a while.

  4. Looking good but in the last five years I eat only veggies because of a stroke. I avoid spices and meats like the poison they can be to my system. Lost ninety pounds and feel much better.

  5. Loved this post! I had a very similar experience in childhood. I tell people I learned to cook out of self defense, because if it wasn’t in a box, a jar, or a can it wasn’t happening in our house. Also similarly, I now embrace every new flavor and food experience I can get my hands on.

  6. Your tagline is beautiful in its simplicity – keeping the world in the kitchen even if stuck at home. A stroke of metaphorical genius. While I definitely enjoy the theme of the post, I find it important to let you know that your benevolent message was well read as well. Cheers!

  7. I learned fairly early in life that if I wanted to eat tasty meals, I’d have to master some cooking skills. After time, when I could finally afford to eat at a gourmet restaurant, I found that I could reproduce a lot of the meal at home simply by knowing the basics. Learning to cook well sets one up for a lifetime of enjoyable meals – and once you know a few secrets, it’s not that hard. I recommend Julia Childs’ “The Way to Cook” if you’re just getting started. Do exactly as she says, and you will not fail.

  8. Hi , this is very beautiful insight .. Atleast for me from india where we cook all fresh meals throughout d day ..thes microwave meals are not that rampent here ..

  9. Your childhood sounds much like mine! I never really had a real cooked dinner until I started dating my husband. His mom always asked him if I ever ate at home! I now strive to cook good delicious food for my family so they don’t have to eat like I did! Sometimes I’m not so successful and do head out for dinner instead! The strange thing is my parents now cook everyday! Something they never did when we were kids! Loved this post!

  10. This really spoke to me. I grew up in a house of 6 kids, so dinner was usually pretty standard kid fare, and the same most weeks. Now, as an adult, I will very rarely eat the same thing twice in 6 months. The world is full of such amazing flavors!

  11. I’m Italian (from Florence, and my home it’s just few meters away from acqua al due 😜) and I can understand what you mean! When I was abroad my flatmates used to kid me because I was “always” cooking and cooking and cooking again. But at least they loved my meals and now, one year after I come back to italy, they still write to me asking for the receipt of my chocolate tiramisu 😜 so enjoy cooking, eating it’s one of the best thing in life!
    Xoxo

  12. You have captured how I feel about food and cooking. My cooking and recipe development is time for me, and where I let my creative juices flow. And I can think of no better way not to go to bed hungry.

  13. Loved how you shared so much. I am the mom who loves having kids’ friends over and doing tailgates. I am new to blogging and may share some of my tried and true recipes and “K Creations”. This is my first post and I am glad to be a part of WordPress….today I am working on my website. Wish me luck!

  14. One thing I like to do to keep the world in my kitchen is when traveling go to a cooking class! It helps you learn about the country you are in as well bring new ideals into your kitchen! You should give this a try!

  15. Started my own home cooked Food Blog today and came across yours. Just regular quick comfy foods that anyone can make and eat. Am following you now to see how it goes along.

  16. Beautiful post! And i’m so envious of your ability to dig into anything! I love what you said about cooking for yourself. I really like doing this myself, in fact, I find cooking to be therapeutic. :)

  17. Great post! You bring forth the importance and the joy of cooking at home- from scratch. No matter what you are cooking, if you cook with joy and love the meal will be better than anything pre-package or eaten at a restaurant.

  18. Personally I have always been a foodie, but I love how easy people like yourself are getting in to food. It just shows you don’t need to know a lot to get in the kitchen and experiment. As a 20 year old student myself I love the ability to escape into the kitchen and create something delicious, fresh and comforting and can’t wait to travel and further fall in love with food as you yourself did.

  19. I liked this post. My mother thought me; she was Italian. I learned how to come up, with great tasting recipes, while working on a small budget. Olive Oil Garlic Pasta, is one of my favorite go to recipes, when I broke. That’s why my tag line is ” Taste good for the Price.”

  20. Loved this : ) I’m another Italian, and have always loved food, but have only in the last few years really started bringing the rest of the world’s food into my kitchen. Hope you keep enjoying it as much as I am!

  21. I’m pretty well traveled myself, and love your take on cooking. Living overseas, I was always amazed how many Americans would skip the local cuisine for fast food. Even today it makes me cringe a little how wrapped up in our own little world we can be. Preparing meals with your heart and soul is way more rewarding than throwing something in the microwave. Thank you for sharing, and feel free to check us out if you like: http://naturalninjas.com/

  22. Lovely post. I used to be anti cooking but I’m slowly discovering the joys of experimenting in the kitchen and with the varied cuisines. Have you tried Indian food? We make everything from scratch too. I’ve had homemade butter and ghee all my life :)

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