Chef Mookie

I like to cook, but I confess I’m not a great cook. I’m also not terrible. Give me a cookbook and I can follow the instructions well enough, and if a recipe doesn’t come out the way I want it the first time I can tweak it for the next time without ruining it.

I’m not one of those cooks who can look at a random assortment of ingredients and spices and whip up something extraordinary. I wish I were that type of cook, though. I look upon people who can do that with great envy and admiration. Give me a random assortment of ingredients and spices and the first thing I’ll do is ask for help.

But while I’m not great or even imaginative, there are a couple of cooking accomplishments I’m rather proud of.

I cook dinner from scratch three times a week for my family. I didn’t create any of the recipes. Like I said, I’m not that imaginative. But the fact that I have the opportunity to make homemade meals for my family in a time when families’ schedules are increasingly haphazard is something I’m grateful for. Night one: seasoned beans and rice. Night two: roasted chickpea and broccoli burrito bowls. Night three: homemade lentil soup with potatoes and carrots.

There is one recipe I did create. I call it “Mookie’s World Famous Stew.” It is not famous at all, but I think it’s rather tasty. I was learning some basic cooking skills in college from a good friend, and one night he made a stew that I liked it so much that I began to try my own versions of it. I don’t remember how it began, but my final version became one that cooked potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and black beans in a stew of olive oil, sauteed garlic, and white cooking wine. It remains my one and only “signature dish,” though it’s so heavy that it can only be served in colder months.

While I like to cook and I love to share what I make, I don’t get to share it with very many people. My wife has an aversion to anything that isn’t bread, meat, or cheese, and I’m a vegan of two decades. My immediate family has made it clear that they do not enjoy plant-based meals. I’m grateful that my son is open to most of what I cook (barring those difficult mealtimes when he throws a tantrum or makes excuses to stop eating so he can play video games sooner), and my brother-in-law’s family has a need for dairy-free options.

I think cooking appeals to me because it’s a creative endeavor. You get to work with your hands to make something whose purpose is to nourish and enrich those around you, both on a literal and spiritual level. Sharing food is love in my book, and the act of doing so brings me great joy. That’s the nourishment the act gives me, aside from the nutrients in the food itself.