Cooking for someone

18 02 2009

I THINK that most of today’s chefs – budding, struggling, successful, or otherwise – must have started with just a very simple desire.


To cook for someone.


I’m neither any of those descriptions I used above.  Budding chef?  Nah.  Struggling  chef?  Say what?  Successful chef?  Didn’t you just get past the answer to the budding chef question?


But what I know is that I have the same very simple desire in me.  The very same desire that has been brewing up in me these past couple of decades.  I vividly recall that as a kid all of nine years old, I started cooking.  And I’m not talking sunny-side ups or eggs over easy – but real serious stuff like kare-kare (Filipino oxtail stew in peanut sauce with fresh vegetables and fermented shrimp paste dip).  My hands still bear the nicks and burns from the knives and flame that have formed part of my regular companions during my early years as a chef wannabe, under the tutelage of my mother.


And I’m just so glad I have learned to cook.  Yes, I can cook as if my life depended on it.  But more so, I’m glad that I have learned to do it for others.


I’ve always believed that the greatest gift is a portion of one’s self or simply, a portion of one’s time.  And that is exactly what cooking for someone is – it is a gift of self.  Sometimes…  no, a lot of times, in the frenzy of all the many and crazy things we need to get done in the 24 hours we have each day, we end up obssessing about managing “our” time.  And no matter how much we believe we do “own” our time and therefore can manage it well, there just seems to be not enough time.  In the office alone, I scurry to and fro tasks on my to-do list (though my STARBUCKS COFFEE® 16-month Date Planner and Journal from Singapore helps!) as if I were in a relay-race.


And that’s where small acts of kindness – like cooking for someone – really help to slow me down and allow me to take stock of what is (or are) really important in life.  And it doesn’t matter in what portion of my day I do it.  As long as I would do it for someone who matters enough, I couldn’t care less anymore if it were in the morning, right after office, or late into the night.  Beyond the mise en place, and long after the visible steam of simmering food has disappeared after slaving over a hot stove, what I take away from cooking for someone is how effective it is as a means of communication.  I won’t go as bold as to declare that somebody would want my cooking.  But suffice it to say, by cooking for someone, a part of me is cognizant that someone else has a basic need…  and with my time and little skill, I wish to fulfill that need.  If that is not even the slightest indication of caring for someone, I don’t know what is.  And I’ve never thought that by doing so I’m doing someone a huge favor.  For me to cook for someone means that they deserve it in the first place.


As a chef wannabe, I recognize that cooking for someone could render the “chef” to indulge in the highest form of self-expression – a propensity to demonstrate prowess that could overshadow fulfilling the basic need.  And that is where I keep myself in check…  that what matters is to give pleasure and to show I genuinely care.  That in my convoluted concept and belief of “owning” my time, I have realized that only when I give of my time, do I really rightfully get to “own” it.  And when I do feel I own it, next comes finding the time for everything that I need – or want – to get done.


But know what?  Sometimes it is not even a matter of finding the time to cook for someone.  If there is one thing “FINDING NEMO” taught me, it is that “finding” can take a long time.  Hahaha!  So it’s not really a matter of finding.


Sometimes, it is all a matter of “making” the time.  So make the time and cook for someone.  I’m telling you, it’s food for the soul.