I love cooking. A lot.
During football season, I create a new recipe every week to sustain my friends through the marathon that is three sets of games every Sunday (with ample Red Zone). These usually need to be foods that can be eaten plateless, sitting on the couch. But instead of going to a couple of solid standbys every week, I invent new snacks, often taking entree-type foods I love and turning them into balls or muffin-sized individual servings. See examples from Pigskin 'n Pie's tumblr here for some of my past indulgences. Also, take time to admire her intense baking skills and wit.
I also have trouble containing my enthusiasm for cooking. I am a chronic over-cooker (as in, too much food, not a serial burner of foods).
After I deposited my dissertation in April (and officially became a doctor), I threw a party for all the people who had (at least indirectly) supported me through the process. Here is an array of (most of) the appetizers):
Because of the large-ish guest list, I also made (3!) meatloaves, a Provencal tian with zucchini and goat cheese, and a melange of roast vegetables with a roast garlic aioli, but then panicked that there wouldn't be enough food and made southwestern spice-rubbed roast turkey breasts as well. No pictures of these survive.
And then there was dessert: a honey-lavender-ricotta ice cream, an Earl Grey ice cream, and a coconut basil mint sorbet. Plus Pigskin 'n Pie brought a chocolate mousse cake.
Panicking, over-cooking, and over-preparing are my modus operandi. My friends laugh about the Christmas I panicked at the last minute (after having made what any normal person would have thought was already an excessive amount of food) and made a three-flavored layered panna cotta (pumpkin, vanilla bourbon, and cinnamon)... Panna cotta, panick-cotta... yeah, my panic attacks are not only classy but also pun-worthy. But after laughing about there being too much food, they still talk about how delicious it all was.
I love the process of cooking: the chopping, the smells, the tastes, the heat, and the colors, but I especially find comfort in how methodical planning allows me to improvise and feel ready for anything. (My pre-recital ritual in grad school was baking cookies the night before so I would have something positive to do. And so I would have cookies. For the reception, obviously.) Being methodical and organized means I can make panna cotta at the last minute because I have all the skills and the ingredients ready to go. It means I can make dinner for 30 of my closest friends, no problem. No one will go hungry (even the vegans or vegetarians) and no one will get food poisoning. It also means that I can sit back and enjoy the process as it unfolds, knowing it's going to turn out well, because I've set myself up to succeed.
I find a lot of similarities between the way I approach and love food and the way I approach and love making music. In the kitchen, I imagine how I want people to feel after eating my food and the journey of flavors and textures I want them to experience. I love watching their faces when something I've made tastes good. I find cooking for people to be so nourishing: for other people's tummies, but also for my soul, because I get to make them feel good and satiated with something I've made with my own hands and imagination. There are so many steps to cooking, but none of them feels like a chore or work because it's all in service of an end product that makes me feel so good I would pay any price to achieve it. Replace "cooking" with "fluting" and "food" with "music" in the preceding sentences and everything still holds true. (I'm also thinking about Jennifer Cluff's article on how to prepare for a competition, in which she describes thinking about the music you make emanating directly from your heart and moving the audience.)
I find that my sense of comfort and enjoyment in the kitchen (cooking food that tastes and looks good, not feeling pressed at the last minute for time, not doing work after guests have arrived) comes down to good mise en place: doing as many preparatory steps ahead of time so that I have everything at hand exactly when I need it. This morning, I'm working on a different kind of mise en place for two larger musical projects I'm preparing: "The Curious Case of Ed Leedskalnin" with The Curiosity Cabinet, and the summer season for Fiati Five. Cutting, taping, hole-punching, highlighting instrument changes, marking in breaths and fingerings, cueing parts... These are the things that happen before I ever pick up my flute and that make me feel confident about what I'm going to play, how I'm going to play it, my role in the whole project, and how successful it's going to be. I don't want to find out at a first rehearsal that I don't have enough time to make a page turn, or that the oboe has the root of the chord, or that the viola should lead the tempo change. These are the kind of little unexpected "oops" moments that, when they pile up, throw me off my game and undermine my confidence by distracting me from the musical line I wanted to play, make rehearsals inefficient, make my time spent with my colleagues less fun, and make performances nerve-wracking.
Both of these projects are going to be great, not only because I'm playing great music and working with great people, but also because I'm going to bring my best, most prepared, most focused self to the rehearsal room, and then the rest will take care of itself.
And afterwards, we eat.