Cooking is the most underrated hard skill.
In this context the word “skill” shouldn’t invoke harrowing visions of mushroom-wine reductions, Julia Child-level onion dicing, or even having great knife technique (though you should definitely know to keep your fingers curled in).
Bourdain put it well.
“Basic cooking skills are a virtue… the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill. It’s as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money.”
Tony was, if anything, a real one.
To me, cooking is about having the general know-how, confidence, and capacity to jump at any opportunity to feed someone else. Family, friends, acquaintances, the person who just stayed in your bed and now has to call a $50 Uber-of-shame home (make them breakfast, it’s the least you can do). It’s not necessary to have a game plan in place either. Maybe you have everything in the fridge to cook something “rustic”, simple, or plain thrown together for your roommates. You could literally put together a plate of cheese and Ritz crackers for your friends, and it’d hold the same weight.
And there’s absolutely no need to impose structure or strict control over any of the process. You’ll find that even if things went awry in the kitchen, the receiving party will display their gratitude (seriously, people are just happy to be fed) and the ensuing wave of fulfillment might just bowl you right over.
It’s not always about the outcome, presentation, or even about the food itself. Cooking, nurturing, and sustaining another’s body is an expression of love and care requiring no words. It’s both an act of altruism and instrumental social support, and can help you feel deeper connection and contentment.
My first foray into this feeling was the Munch Bunch - an every-other-Sunday night gathering for a group of friends and I in college, where we each took turns making the rest dinner. There was a big blind/little blind(s) poker mechanism going on, where one person would undertake the main course, and somebody else would make a complimentary starter or side dish. One person would provide snacks, and another important party would pair drinks. Some of my fondest memories were made in Justin & Dee’s apartment, and it was there I ate some of the most soul-filling meals of my life. We were a fairly ragtag group, but these get-togethers provided us an environment to feed and be fed, and “recharge our batteries” before jumping into the week.
It's simply in our nature to want to take care of others.
“Feeding fulfills a survival need, and so our feeling of fulfillment comes not only from the good of the act of giving, but also the fact that we have 'helped' in some very primal way. We have given fuel.”
Michal AviShai, a culinary arts therapist said that. I found his quote on the internet. Consider that source cited.
In a sense, THIS is what constitutes soul food. I don’t think there’s an easier way to bond with someone than handing them a plate of food that YOU made, special for them. (Other than being born as somebody’s twin of course - those bonds run deep as hell.)
So, if you’re in need of soul cleansing, a break from the day-to-day disconnectivity of modern life, or you have a bunch of scallions in the fridge about to go bad, cook for somebody else.
No reason, special occasion, or self-guilt tripping necessary.