February 21, 2010

Why I Cook

This is not my kitchen- but have cooked here with my students-
what a perfect space to enjoy cooking!

I spend a lot of time now on Twitter as well as Facebook- for me it is like being at a party with a bunch of friends and eavesdropping on lots of conversations and jumping in with my own comments on some conversations.

Living among the olive trees in Tuscany may create a heavenly image of peace and quiet, but can also be BORING at times. One needs some outside stimulus to keep the the brain muscles going.

Yesterday Micheal Ruhlman posted on Twitter his link to Why I Cook- which made me stop and think.

First of all- when did I start to cook?

I remember the joy of my easy bake oven and decorating cakes and throwing parties making costumes for my trolls.... but that was not it.

I remember making mudpies for my neighbor and him eating them--- the Dr said I should make sure to remove the rocks, but it was ok!

I took home-econ classes, but did sewing instead of the cooking.

In college I studied art, ceramics, photography and soft sculpture. It was the time of Women's Lib and cooking seemed to be something housewife's did not liberated women.

Then I got the travel bug and food was such a huge part of the experience.
When I finally took longer trips, it seemed I could always get a job in a restaurant or a bar even though I had no experience. I was a quick learner.

I was curious and I wanted the people at home to taste some of the extraordinary foods and flavors from Greece, Israel, France... a whole new world had opened to me.

when I travel the first place I want to tour is a market
the heart of a city- which is why I offer market tours-
to let people in on the REAL FLORENCE

When I returned back to the states, I was inspired to learn a trade that would allow me to work around the world. I got a job at a 5 star hotel. First as a cashier, then a waitress ( great $$$ which allowed for more trips) and finally saw the light! If I could cook- I could work anywhere.

As I looked around in the kitchen ( this is back in the late 70's) it was a man's kitchen and women were cleaning salads and making breakfast. I looked a little farther back in the kitchen and found my space- the pastry shop.

No one yelled at the pastry chef- and it was a position open to women.

I have not looked back since. Learning to cook, starting with pastry made me a strong cook.
I learned to weigh and use ratio in cooking and saw that the "other" cooking was much easier as you could fix things afterwards.

I have been teaching cooking now for over 20 years. Making food accessible to all and taking the fear out of cooking.

So why do I cook?

  • To eat what I like
  • I adore feeding people
  • I love the shopping and meeting the artisans and farmers that produce the food I eat.
  • I have created a class for American students studying abroad called Culture through Cooking- studying history and understanding where traditions come from through food is facinating to me and I love sharing the info. Tracing recipes and how they change is fun.
  • I find a certain peace or Zen in the preparing of food which is relaxing.
  • I also find a adrenaline rush when catering or preparing large meals and satisfaction when done.
  • learning to cook in a new country has made me more friends!
Having started as a pastry chef- people love desserts which are not always part of a menu at home- so a great gift to share.

Living in Italy, one of the first things I did before I moved here was to learn to prepare foods I love which I was not sure to find here: Sushi and Mexican food.

Smart move!

Food is my life and my job now. Teaching, writing, guiding culinary tours.
But even in my everyday life- I love to cook!

I am very lucky as it is part of my job and not something I have to do in addition to my job.
Shopping takes time as does preparing food.

But I truly believe that taking time to shop for good ingredients and prepare them simply is the BEST gift one can give anyone and is also so much healthier and cheaper than eating out!

Take time at least once a week to cook- share the work, and enjoy it!


  1. Beautifully said Judy. Your passion shines through in every thing, whether it's a hidden spot, the first bite or a simple recipe. No matter what, your passion is infectious. Grazie mille.

  2. Ciao. Feeding people is addictive, the returns are enormous. Beautiful post, Beautiful Lady!

  3. my sister is currently studying abroad in Florence. Do you have more info on your Culture through Cooking class? Sounds fabulous and I'd love her to check it out!

  4. Janine- no I stopped teaching for the Universities- much prefer cooking to grading papers!!

  5. Greta post-I can totally relate!

  6. I just discovered your lovely blog today thanks to your friend request on FoodBuzz. I must say you seem like one awesome lady and I look forward to following you and your blog. Kudos!

  7. I have just bumped into your blog from Belly up; your blog's title attracted my attention because I am from Tuscany... I also love good food and now that I live in South Africa I miss my markets and and the good quality we get all over Italy. Very happy to meet you, I will stay...

    Love & Rainbow

  8. This post is just great. I love your photo at the top of your blog and this subject is a really good one. I wish I had more time to spend cooking fabulous home cooked meals.

  9. What a wonderful ode to cooking, Judy!

  10. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reade. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    If you want to visit my site www.myeasypayment.com.

  11. Judy, I couldn't agree with you more when you say, "learning to cook in a new country has made me more friends!"

    One's pockets needn't be lined with gold to get by in another country, especially when breaking bread proves the best currency exchange of all.