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What Makes A Cook?

An Essay on Food and Love

By Katerina PetrouPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
Top Story - June 2024
What Makes A Cook?
Photo by Duncan Kidd on Unsplash

Despite sipping on a retired pornstar, I felt absolutely drunk. Like two giddy school girls, my mother and I ate in silence. While, every so often, looking up from our spoons to exchange a smile and a light laugh. Underneath the golden chandeliers of Savoy Grill glistened a rich, dark caramel, poured atop the apple tart tatin. A truly euphoric experience, it was.

During the courses prior, I asked my mother to tell me what I should do with my life. Surely this is the last thing an adult woman would ask of her mother. In fact, she may insist upon the opposite quite often. Though, being in your twenties with a past as turbulent as mine, it can be useful, almost necessary, to ask someone who is not living inside of your mind what your purpose could be. Watching the way I appreciated the complimentary umami bread, the delicate sautéed spinach and the rosy, shimmering slice of beef Wellington, my mother told me I would excel as a food writer. "You have a good palette," she said. What a wonderfully affirming thing that was to hear.

Food is a substantial part of my soul. It brings me a sensation not many other things can. When I speak of food, I do not primarily mean truffle beef Wellington and cheese soufflé at Savoy Grill. Food, to me, is a small ceramic bowl of simplicity, greek yogurt and local honey. It is the family-run Italian restaurant round the corner that I eat from every week. It is baking a cake just so that I can lick the spoon, and the bowl, and the portion I purposely left out of the tins. It is my comfort meal that I eat in front of the television, watching with sore and swollen eyes. Food, it is a form of love.

After my mother suggested I become a food writer, flashbacks of my failed cooking attempts pelted my thoughts. How many dry sponges I have wanted to throw at the wall. Each batch of too pale, too dark and utterly perfect cookies that I cannot, for the life of me, re-birth. The misread measurements that, now, double the time in every recipe I replicate. Whoever says that baking is relaxing must be mentally stable. I want to create delicious food to show those I consider my family, by blood and by soul, just how much I love them. So, when I overcook, yet another, batch of cookies, or the cake sponge, still, isn't right, I feel as though I have failed to love. I do not love in halves or quarters. My love is whole and overflowing. It is a love so abundant it overwhelms me. If I cooked good food for those I feel I must, I would have created something that physically presents my love. The joy that good food brings me, I want to gift it to others.

My question is, what truly makes a cook? Can somebody who cannot cook, be a cook? Or somebody who could cook, but does not. The ones who appreciate food, who understand food, but live alone so do not have the excuse or money to cook giant pots of stew. Can they call themselves a cook? Genuinely, I believe that I have enough natural skill and motivation to be a talented cook, should I train to be one. However, this same logic could be applied to many aspects of life. Sure, I can, kind of, sing. But, I would be a great singer if I knew what a key was. My hips move pretty well, maybe I could be a dancer. Or a boxer.

"Anyone can cook." Chef Auguste Gusteau. Disney Pixar's Ratatouille. Perhaps he was not talking about combining one vegetable with another. Not slicing, dicing or, even, julienning! My father was a cook. Though he did not step foot in a professional kitchen or have his own restaurant, he was a cook through and through. His soul was born to cook. To eat. It could be that I put pressure on myself once I stand before a stove because I want to give others the love that he did through his food. Food is in my soul, as he is, too. No amount of burnt cookies or dry cakes can take that away from me. 


About the Creator

Katerina Petrou

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Comments (4)

  • Dr. Jason Benskin25 days ago

    Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • Melissa Ingoldsbyabout a month ago

    Very sweet ending great reference to Ratatouille

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Every idea was perfect.

  • Khanabout a month ago

    So well said! I couldn't agree more.

Katerina PetrouWritten by Katerina Petrou

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