Cooking as Poetry

Cooking is like a poem.

There’s a certain rhythm and grace to the prep work. Chopping, slicing, and dicing; the alternating short and long cuts a sort of iambic pentameter in the kitchen. Baking is precision and rhyme, but all else – that which does not demand perfection – is loose, free-form.

These ideas came to me Sunday evening as I prepared dinner. We’d invited my parents over for honey-glazed salmon with a browned butter and lime sauce, a recipe I first discovered last year and one that has converted a couple of salmon-averse individuals (including my own wife, no less) into fans, at least of this one dish. To wit: it’s really good.

I found myself lost in thought during the preparation, enjoying the sense of purpose these repetitive tasks brought me. There is an undeniable pride and joy that accompanies the act of creating a dish from scratch,  an age-old satisfaction in providing sustenance. Feeding others harkens back to a tribe mentality old as the dawn of man.

Damn. How much wine did I drink, anyway?!

But seriously. I’ve always loved cooking, which explains why I was anything but the typical bachelor following my divorce. Microwave burritos and take-out pizza were never my thing; even during those kid-free weeks when it was just me (and later, just me and the cat), I found myself slaving away in the kitchen, regardless of how tired I was or how busy my work day had been. Taking the easy route wasn’t ever an option for me, at least not one that I ever seriously considered. I never really thought about the reasons why I chose to create complex meals for myself every night; only in retrospect did this seem like an awful lot of unnecessary work for a party of one when a PB&J sandwich or a bowl of Top Ramen would have sufficed. But yesterday, I realized for the first time what cooking really meant to me.

Focus.

Determination.

A sense of purpose.

Above all else, a blank canvas waiting to be filled.

All of which pretty much sum up everything lacking in my life at the time.

Oh, and for the record? The salmon last night was excellent. And that sums up my life these days.

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13 thoughts on “Cooking as Poetry

  1. I get immense pleasure from eating something good that I’ve made, but honestly, after 30 years of dinner making, the actual act is a chore.

    Looking at recipes and photos of food on Pinterest and Foodgawker is a nice time passer, however!

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  2. I have to admit in my bachelor years I was the prototypical can’t be bothered to cook anything fancy type, but once I had someone special to cook for it made all the difference. I don’t know that I’d be motivated to have to cook every night, but cooking from time to time I find the process much as you’ve so nicely described it.

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  3. LOVE the opening line of this post, Mark! Brilliant!

    I think it’s awesome that you (and Tara) have such a passion and talent for cooking. I absolutely love to eat, however, I’ve never possessed a cooking talent. I can prepare food by throwing things together, but to actually “cook” things….no. And I think it’s a riot that I once had a job (for two years) working at Williams-Sonoma – ha!

    I don’t eat seafood, but that salmon you cooked looked DE-LICIOUS!

    Bon appetit!

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    1. That’s an older photo and I was in a hurry to get this posted so I didn’t have time to crop it or do any touch-up work. So trust me when I say, the actual meal was far better than the picture. But that’s usually the case anyway. Have a great, long weekend!

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