If someone asked you right now, “why do you cook?”, what would you say?
They say that one of the best ways to experience a new culture is to try that culture’s food. There is something special and intimate about sharing a meal with others: you see not only what their culture has eaten for thousands of years, but also their time-honored traditions and lifelong memories. But in a fast-paced world where a new Thai restaurant opens every other week and we can get handmade spaetzle just down the street, why do we cook?
We cook to make memories. The simple act of breaking bread with others has come to represent a way of passing down who we are and where we have been. Our ancestors sat around countless crackling fires while roasting that day’s latest catch. And now we sit around our tables and counters, sharing our grandmothers traditional meals and our favorite new pork belly dish. Sharing what is old and traditional – as well as what is new and exciting – is what can make a meal more than just sustenance.
We cook to stay healthy. Obesity is real epidemic in our country – I see it every day in my profession, among multiple other dietary-linked health conditions. We cook because it let’s us know what goes into our bodies. We cook because we are subsequently the masters of our own health: I decide when to use olive oil instead of butter, when to make salads, and when to indulge in just a little bit of homemade chocolate lava cake. 😉
We cook to set an example. Families who eat together stay together partly because they set a lasting example for their children. One example we can set for our kids is showing them that no matter what the day has brought to us, we still meet up every night around the table to share our stories, our triumphs, and our frustrations. Growing up, we always ate at the table, and the TV was only on if the Red Wings were in the playoffs. Cooking gives not just an opportunity to provide healthy meals for your family, but it provides your children with role models who are involved in their lives every day.
We cook to see if we really can make gnocchi from scratch. Because, let’s face it: some of our meals are flops. Sometimes we mess up the dough, and sometimes we over-season the dish. We cook to challenge ourselves to be more creative, more resourceful, more adventurous.
We cook because someone we love did. Our grandmother, our father, our sister, our cousin. Someone you love cooked for you at one point in time, and regardless of whether you recall all the details, those memories live on in us. The smells of a bubbling Paprikash sauce on the stove or the whirring sound of a pasta machine streaming out fresh dough: these bring us back to thoughts of the people we love.
I wish you all an amazing Thanksgiving holiday and have shared with you today a recipe for roasted pumpkin stuffing below. It features oven roasted pumpkin, delicious Italian sausage, and a blend of incredible autumn herbs. Let me know what you think!
Now it’s your turn: why do you cook? Post your answer below or share on Instagram by tagging #thecharmingdetroiter! I will share some of my favorite answers on my Instagram account!
- 2 cups pumpkin, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 8 oz. crusty bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and left out on a tray overnight
- 12 oz. Italian sausage
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. ground clove
- 1/2 white onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 1/2 tbsp. rosemary, minced
- 1 1/2 tbsp. thyme, minced
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 2 eggs
- Olive oil
- Butter or cooking spray
- Grease a large baking dish with butter or cooking spray and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread out pumpkin cubes out on the parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until fork-tender. Preheat the broiler and toast cubes under the broiler for 3-4 minutes until browned. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
- Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausage. Add nutmeg and ground clove. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is nicely browned, about 8-10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove sausage to a paper-towel lined dish. In the same pan, sauté the onion until translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
- In a large bowl, combine toasted bread, pumpkin, sausage, onion and garlic mixture, dried cranberries, walnuts, rosemary, and thyme. Stir until combined. Add stock and eggs and toss just until combined. Transfer to prepared baking dish and bake in oven for 30-35 minutes.