Cooking... where to begin?
Cooking for me was introduced as a concept that I could actually do for myself when I was still rather young. As part of a requirement for some Cub Scout thing, my mom helped me make spaghetti. Sure it was box pasta and jar sauce, but I was in like second grade. What do you expect?
This experience showed me that food, ready to eat food, did not have to come from someone else. I could provide for myself.
A few years later, my uncle showed me how to make french toast while we were visiting his family in Wisconsin. Milk, eggs, bread, a little cinnamon, mix them all together... This was my first taste of taking very different, raw ingredients and transforming them into something different. Real culinary science. Boiling water and adding pasta was one thing, but french toast is denaturing the proteins in the milk thinned eggs, carmalizing the natural sugars, and even utilizing spices. There was even a chance I could burn something.
While others followed, these two are the main experiences that began my adventures in cooking.
Since then, I've come to understand cooking as an art. Recipes are stories and ingredients are the characters. Some people find cooking intimidating because they worry about telling the story exactly according to some external standard. But no meal is ever going to be exactly the same. As long as you don't forget too many of the characters and get the basic plot right, you'll be alright. I've just come to a point where I know most of the basic plots pretty well and I'm familiar enough with many different characters that I can write my own stories.
Cooking can be a way of expressing myself but what I really enjoy is the hands on nature of exploring new things. Especially with such tools as the internet available, knowing how to read a recipe and do what it says opens up the doors to cultures throughout the world, and sometimes throughout time.
When we eat we use all of our senses. We see the food with it's variety of colors and shapes. We smell and taste the aromas and flavors of the different ingredients and how they interact with each other. We hear the sounds of the sizzling skillet, boiling sauces, the crunch of different textures. We feel the smooth richness or crisp texture, the heat or coolness in our mouths.
No other art form allows us to experience another culture so entirely.
As I've mentioned, nourishment is one of the big three things just about everything needs to survive: food/water, air, & warmth. Being aware of this, cooking is pretty important to me. While other forms of life use tools, only humans cook their food. We've even gotten to the point where our bodies won't even process some forms of uncooked protein. I know some people have raw food diets, but they're exceptions. Even then they don't just go around grazing on plants, they still prepare dishes.
While I can identify with and befriend the special breed of people that works in kitchens, I will never truly fit in no matter how much I am accepted. Instead, I would prefer to eventually make a career out of sharing this information and my passion with other people.