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Monday, February 22, 2010

Why do YOU cook, Andrea Nguyen?

Andrea Nguyen

Photo credit: Penny De Los Santos

Andrea Nguyen is a cookbook author who has demystified making Asian dumplings and recreating Vietnamese food in your own kitchen. Woven in between her recipes are stories about family, culture, traditions and faraway places. But aside from being such a talented author, it's great to spend time with Andrea. She exudes enthusiasm and positive energy. She also has a wonderful laugh and can talk about food for hours. Here are the 13 reasons why she cooks. I bet some of her reasons will ring true for you too...

My mother started me out cooking when she deemed me old enough to make rice for our family dinner. I was about 8 years old. By then, she and my father had observed that their chubby youngest daughter was an enthusiastic eater. Why not see if she can cook too? After all, it’s part of being a good, well-rounded super woman. My mother, now 75, is not only beautiful, but socially graceful. Her hair is constantly coifed, her nails are perfect (she does them herself), and her clothing is custom-made by her. She still cooks 99% of the meals that she and my dad eat. I don’t aspire to be my mother but she did get me on the road to cooking and seeded my culinary curiosity.

I’m a cookbook author, writer, and cooking teacher, not a chef. I feel awkward being called a chef because I don’t practice my craft in a restaurant. I describe myself as a ‘professional home cook’ as my workspace is a regular kitchen equipped with a modest Sears stove. I don’t put out food on an industrial scale and my adrenaline rush to ‘fire’ a dish and send it out to the table is because I want to sit down to eat with my family and friends.

Though I’ve cooked for decades, I don’t foresee myself stopping. Why continue to mince, simmer, sauté, grill, pound and clean up after myself? Here are a baker’s dozen reasons for why I cook:

1. I get hungry and eat three meals a day.

2. There are no Asian street vendors or noodle joints outside my door.

3. Homemade food is tastier than purchased food.

4. A meal you cook yourself costs less and you can freeze leftovers.

5. A pot of rice or pho makes the house smell nice.

6. You can dial in your personal food preferences when you cook for yourself.

7. When I eat a bad dish out, I feel compelled to make it up to my palate by preparing a better version of that dish at home.

8. To see if I can replicate a professional chef’s brilliance.

9. To get a feel for traditional foodways and experience an old-fashioned cook’s craft.

10. Repeatedly making the same recipes allows me to work through unfamiliar techniques.

11. The more I cook, the better I write better recipes.

12. To preserve cultural traditions, lest they disappear.

13. Cooking calms and centers me. I turn off Twitter.

Why Do YOU Cook? posts from food bloggers and cookbook authors:
Hank Shaw
Allen Williams
Eric Gower
Kalyn Denny
Garrett McCord
Carol Blymire
Sean Timblerlake & DPaul
Matthew Amster-Burton
Kamran Siddiqi
Susan Russo
Guy Prince
Allison Arevalo
Mary Ladd

...and on other blogs:
Judy Witts Francini
Michael Ruhlman