As a diaper-wearing toddler, I used to stumble to my mom’s kitchen and pull open the 70’s yellow cupboard doors and drawers, fascinated by the magical world held inside.
Taking out the cupboard’s pots and pans I would also raid the fridge for anything I could reach, often milk and butter.
Later, my mom would find me, sat in a melted mess of milk and butter babbling in Swedish, “Cook-ing, cook-ing,” whilst stirring the imagined three-course meal I was making.
The kitchen was the very heart of our home.
It was where my siblings and I would gather, not just to eat but to hang out and talk to our mom as she poured a part of her soul into the dinners which back then, we often didn’t appreciate enough.
It was there my enduring love of cooking was kindled.
Unlike the policemen or football players that the other boys wanted to be when they grew up, whenever someone asked me, I would reply, “A chef,” with a grin on my face.
As a 14-year-old there are entries after entries in my diary where I’m thinking about and planning what to bake for an upcoming birthday party.
My birthday party.
But then puberty struck and my attention was drawn elsewhere and eventually—though I can’t remember exactly when—I stopped cooking.
Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all Harriet Van Horne
Looking back, it’s clear that there wasn’t a single event for which to blame but rather multiple small ones. Like a pinch of girls, a splash of alcohol and a dab of mischief, coming together to form a nourishing neglect.
As the years went by, I would occasionally dip my proverbial finger into the batter bowl—remember the cupcakes?—but overall, it seemed as though the once blazing flames had turned to smouldering embers.
Cooking is a form of care and nurture that reaches all our senses. Taste obviously, but also sight, hearing, smell and touch.
Cooking is connecting to other people and making them happy.
Cooking is making myself happy, whether it’s for someone else or enjoying a meal they have poured a part of their soul into.
But I disagree with Harriet Van Horne.
Cooking isn’t like love.
It is love.
But I had forgotten that.
Until a couple of years ago when a friend recommended a film called Chef.
After igniting a Twitter war with a well-known culinary critic, a Los Angeles chef packs his knives, heads home to Miami and opens a food truck. Chef on Rotten Tomatoes
I loved every second of crying through its unmistakable love for cooking, food and its ingredients.
I rewatched it a few weeks ago and it gut-punched my feelings just as much.
And like that, Chef rekindled the embers, melting the now-hardened butter I once sat in.
So when Katy and I started looking at places to call our home, one of the first rooms on our list of priorities was the kitchen.
We knew we wanted a kitchen made for cooking together.
A kitchen where we could continue to explore Japanese street food, how many chillies are too much, and vegan cuisine with reckless abandon and enthusiasm.
A kitchen that could be the heart of the home.
And when I look back at that boy sitting on the floor, I wonder if he would have liked our current kitchen?
He knew what made him happy.
It took me 20 years to remember what he had figured out in a few.
Cooking is a repeatable act of love, whether that’s towards myself or others and it makes me happy.
Butter-butt or not.