I have always loved to cook and entertain at home. From grand events and festive family dinners to everyday lunches, I have done it all. Cooking is my way of giving back, of sharing the bounty that I have, of being generous and supportive. Cooking is a great source of delight; it is artistic, creative, challenging and inspirational. I learn something new everyday. Cooking reduces stress and gives me a huge sense of accomplishment, of something well done. It is sort of like a self-pat-on-the-back, like a huge hug or a much deserved "well-done".
What I want to share with you is that cooking is a pleasure, it is essential for our well being, it is the BEST thing we can do for our bodies. Cooking is a source of great pride and satisfaction. It is one of those everyday musts that is so much more than just going through the actions. It uses all of our senses, and we are able to give so much joy to the ones around us.
For those of us who love to cook, our life in the kitchen evolves and changes as we move through life. Cooking at home parallels the stages of our lives, and each one has unique characteristics, nuances, distinctions, difficulties and pleasures. Being able to change the style accordingly to what is happening in our life, the stage we are in, the needs of our family’s, enables us to enjoy cooking during all of life’s stages.
As a young girl, I was only allowed in the kitchen at teatime, and watched the cook make cakes, tarts and cookies; I was really more a bother than a help, but I did become an expert in licking spoons and getting the last possible bit of chocolate sauce from the pan. It was then, waiting for the cake to bake, the jello to mold and the dough to rise that I learned the art of patience.
Then, at boarding school in England, at Home Economics class, we learned the beauty of a flaky scone, how to make short crust pastry and how to separate an egg. We were also taught how to write recipes, balance household accounts and create menus. We fought over the last bits of butter, and scraped pans for tidbits of dough. It was here where I learned prudence and frugality in the kitchen.
As a teenager, I made hors d’oeuvres for friends that came over to our house and mixed drinks for my parents. I learned the art of timing when I insisted on preparing hors d’oeuvres in the morning and watched, in horror, as they totally spoiled in the Andalusian summer sun. Mixing drinks and passing hors d’oeuvres is how we were allowed in the living room to be among the grown ups, and so I learned the art of gracious hospitality.
I didn’t touch a pan until my early twenties. Well, it wasn’t really a pan that I touched, it was my nemesis: the salad spinner. As the eternal weekend house- guest I soon realized I’d better contribute something to the household. Helping in the kitchen was my way of saying thanks for the invite. I became an expert in drying lettuce and slicing tomatoes!
Babies are born, children grow, they leave, they come back, dinner parties at home get grander and then smaller, children visit with more children in tow and yet through all these changes, my desire to cook at home has not diminished, it has just evolved. My pantry is not what it used to be, bursting with spur-of-the-moment staples, frozen ravioli, and jars and jars of home made tomato sauce. Now, it carries delicacies from around the world, exquisite cheeses, fragrant dried fruits, freshly cured smoked salmon and one-of-a-kind olive oils. As we have traveled, evolved and learned, so have my tastes. Eating at home has become, once again, a great pleasure.
For me, cooking is a lifestyle choice. And I say this in a very loud voice because cooking does take time, it needs preparation and thought and it requires practice and practice. It will take you away from walks, and shopping with girl friends, and maybe going to the movies, or even sleep if you are “on call” for breakfasts but the other side is that you will be healthier, happier, stronger and have a lot more friends who will be thrilled to come to your house for meals. I promise.
Award winning cookbook author and TV personality Victoria Amory has intertwined her European heritage and lineage with American style and sensibility, and developed a philosophy of life and entertaining that she has magically captured in her books, magazines articles and television shows.