Jun 14

Why do you cook what you cook? + A Giveaway!

in Uncategorized

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” — James Beard

I don’t think I tell you enough how grateful I am for my readers. Blogging can feel like writing in a vacuum, and sometimes I feel like I’m talking to myself, but then I get comments from you and the vacuum disappears! One of the big reasons I blog is YOU. You are a source of inspiration for me, whether it be a comment that helps me to find the most fabulous pumpkin scone recipe on the planet,
thinking about what makes a good slow cooker,
letting me know when you’ve tried out one of my recipes (I LOVE hearing that!), or just letting me know what you’re thinking. Sometimes one of your comments really gets me thinking. I got one of those comments on my last post early this morning from Kathy. She asked, “I know you obviously cook what is easier in the country that you happen to be in, but do you feel that you miss Japanese cooking, or do you just not ‘feel’ like cooking it so much?” Such a great question! The question started me down a path of thinking about what I cook and why, what my family eats, what ends up on this blog, and what my sources of inspiration are. So this morning, I’d like to share a few of those thoughts with you instead of what I had planned. Hopefully somewhere in there I’ll answer your question Kathy!

One thing that can be a good thing and a bad thing about food blogging is you only see a very small fraction of what we eat on a daily basis. I tend to share fun new things we’ve tried, new creations, or the biggest disasters. What you don’t see are the ho hum dishes, our favorite things that we eat on a reoccurring basis, or things that get replaced in the blogging queue by something I’m more excited about sharing. After reading Kathy’s comment I’ve realized that Japanese food has fallen into the categories of what you don’t see. Squirrel and I tend to eat quite a bit of Japanese food on a daily basis, but we are in a self-imposed rut. There are a few things that we both love that are quick and easy, so I tend to make them a lot. We eat a lot of onigiri and miso soup, for example.
So this explains part of the rut, but why has the variety of Japanese foods I cook dwindled? Do I miss Japanese cooking? YES! If anything I miss Japanese food more and more the longer we have been back in the US. So what’s the problem? I think the “problem” lies in where I draw my inspiration. What I cook tends to be inspired by a variety of sources: nostalgia, habit, other food blogs, newspaper/magazine articles, your comments, my moods/cravings, time (or the lack thereof), and what I see when I go to the grocery store. Although I am confronted with an overwhelming amount of variety when I go to the grocery store here in the US, it is all a bit “familiar.” Contrast this to my experience of doing my grocery shopping in Japan where each and every trip was an adventure, as I was constantly looking at things that were new and unfamiliar. Take for example the seafood section. Talk about variety! Tons of different fish and creatures that I had never seen in a grocery store before, let alone cooked. Trying new things and cooking new Japanese dishes was easy when there were so many new things that I couldn’t wait to put in my grocery basket and take home and experiment with. In addition, having two little Fujilings to constantly run after definitely keeps me busy and on my toes, so sometimes I admit, that I go with what is easy and what takes less planning and thought. Based on that fact, I’m extra excited about my new cooking project, which I expect will be a great source of inspiration and will give my family lots of variety in the Japanese cuisine arena.

Okay, now for the giveaway! I am going to give one of you a set of my all-time favorite measuring spoons (plus a few other surprise goodies).
What I want from you is a comment telling me about what inspires you in the kitchen and why you cook what you cook. After thinking about my own answers I’m very curious to hear yours! So talk to me! I will keep the comments open until this Friday, June 19th, 10 pm PST, and announce the winner (using a random number generator) on Monday (June 22nd). Make sure you leave me a way to contact you. This giveaway is open to all of my readers (international included). *Comments are now closed and the winner will be announced on Monday, June 22, 2009!

Coming Tomorrow: One Good (Meat)Loaf

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann June 14, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Great question! It would be a 20 page answer to get it all down, so I'll be short and sweet for me:) I've always been into health and self-taught. I'm constantly researching how foods interact with the body (and processed and fake things as well), some of my extended family is European and we travel a lot (dad born in Italy came over when he was 10), my husband has tons of food allergies and I'm hoping to eliminate those with our child so he doesn't have the unfortunate issues his dad has. As a kid, I never liked hamburges and hot dogs (still don't like hot dogs, only quality hamburgers and bison burgers will do) and I preferred spinach and brussels sprouts. In a way, I think I was kinda born to eat good food! (I think your story is very interesting! My brother married a Japanese girl and I'm lucky to get some good stuff from her and hope my son develops a taste for it all as well).


koshercamembert June 14, 2009 at 12:55 pm

When I'm cooking for myself, I often make a combination of what I'm in the mood for, what seems fresh, how the weather is, and, to be perfectly honest, whatever I can throw together with what I have in the house. When entertaining, I usually try to come up with a theme (often a cuisine from a country that I've visited) so that all the food will come together. On my blog, I try to share a good mix of easy recipes as well as more complex ones. I usually talk about my food and mood inspirations because, for me, food is so intrinsically linked to how I'm feeling. Great question and I'm curious what others answered.


DeliciosoMama June 14, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Cooking is an expression of how I am feeling at the moment. If I am cooking Indian food, I am feeling very introspective. Italian? I'm remembering my grandparents. BBQ? The kids must be here for dinner! Potstickers? Sushi? The outdoor patio must be open!
Needing comfort foods..like we are now (will TrapperDUde have ajob in a week or not???)…we are eating venison fry steaks, smashed garlic taters, fresh green beans with garlic and bacon , fresh jam on hot fresh made bread…I'm eatig gobs of that now!!!


Marianne Guymon June 14, 2009 at 1:23 pm

My answer is going to sound cheesy and corny, but what really made me stop and think about what I was doing in my kitchen was your blog! My husband (Warren) had it bookmarked thinking it was your family blog and I've been checking it daily ever since. You always seemed to have so much fun in the kitchen I wanted in on the action. I always enjoyed cooking, particularly baking, and so I decided a few months ago to really start taking my kitchen seriously as a tool and less like an extra room on my house that gets used once in a while. I've really enjoyed pulling out family recipes that my husband and I grew up on and am even assembling a family cookbook now so that the whole family can benefit from my refreshed love of cooking. I've also restored my old art blog into an art, craft and cooking blog so that I can share my recipes with friends and family and get feedback and ideas from them as well. I'm feeling like a new woman with a different purpose in life I didn't even know was an option!


ShellyLynn June 14, 2009 at 1:23 pm

A lot of what I cook right now is based on sales and our budget. I've also been trying to cook much healthier for my 18 mo old daughter who has health/allergy issues. "Much healthier" is all relative, I suppose, when compared to how a lot of people eat though!


Dianna June 14, 2009 at 1:25 pm

for me, memories are a huge part of what inspires me to cook in the kitchen as well as why i cook what i cook. it always amazes me how a simple fragrance or a burst of flavor can cause all these memories to gush forth. in essence, a lot of what inspires me to cook are my mom's, dad's and grandma's home cooking that is inextricably connected to the feel and taste of love.


Dimitrova June 14, 2009 at 2:11 pm

I found your blog a few days ago and I have truly enjoyed reading it. It is very inspiring, and so is your question. My cooking is inspired by so many factors: sometimes it is nostalgia – I cook bulgarian food, things that my grandmother cooked when i was little; sometimes it is memories – I cook italian food when i remember the times my husband and I have eaten authentic Ialian food; sometimes it is the desire to experiment, or try to recreate something that I tasted in a restaurant – I cook Indian, Thai, Mexican food; sometimes it is nostalgia for what i have never been in contact with – I love Greek food and cook it often because it feels like home, although I have never been to Greece; and sometimes it is just a matter of what is in the fridge after a long day at work. It is an ever changing art, a new design idea emerging from the events, thoughts and dreams encountered throughout each day.


eatlivetravelwrite June 14, 2009 at 2:13 pm

What inspires me in the kitchen, ummmm…
How much time do I have?
What ingredients do I have available?
What do I feel like eating?
What do I feel like cooking?

It's a great day if the universe conspires!


Bettina Groh June 14, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I have been cooking W-A-A-Y too long. We've been married for 43 years and for years I was cornered by finances and children. We were in a rut! Our family has definite favorites and comfort foods culled from both my side and my husband's.
But change is creeping in! My kids ( all grown) like to cook and like to experiment. Not to be left behind I am doing the same thing… trying to have at least two new recipes a week. Thanks to blogs, to cooking tv shows, to cooking recipes etc. we now eat with much more variety!


Christine June 14, 2009 at 2:21 pm

What inspires me in my kitchen is my family, their presence and encouragement while I'm baking, cooking, trying out a recipe, trying to perfect one is what keeps me going back into my kitchen to cook. Thanks for the opportunity!


jmjaques June 14, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Hi, I LOVE your blog, It's on my feed…

Right now We're in a HUGE rut, I'm using a lot of quick and easy recipes and ready-made dinners, (frozen pizza anyone?) but I'm slowly making my way to making new things at least 2 days a week, I'm working up to (hopfully) 5 days a week.

You inspire me and some other food blogs around the net; and I'm using my great-grandmother's recipes and recipe book (making some old family favs. and altering others to make new family favorites)

We sit down when my husband comes home and decide on what kind of food want to eat. Then I find a recipe and I go to the store and buy what we need to make the dinner. (It's actually coming out cheaper then when we buy food for a month!)

Our favorite recipes are crockpots and cassaroles. (great for left overs!)


Laura June 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm

I love to use what I have on hand to create meals. We try to seasonally and here in Alaska it is a take what you can get kind of lifestyle. Take what is fresh now use some and save some for winter.


Kim June 14, 2009 at 3:12 pm

What inspires me?? HA, well if my toddler ate more than 3 food items, HE would inspire me. Maybe someday, right??! I can blissfully picture the day when he'll eat when WE eat, so that mental image is what keeps me going………


Vicki June 14, 2009 at 4:43 pm

I'm constantly inspired by other bloggers to try ingredients I've never had before, to try new (to me) cuisines. I try to cook mostly healthy stuff, and at the same time keep my family happy, which doesn't always happen at the same time. But it's a great day when it does :)


Carolyn G June 14, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I cook because I love to eat. I cook because it relaxes me and I love to be able to feed people and make them happy. My main inspiration comes from my memories of cooking wiht my grandmother. I loved being in the kitchen with her. She would tell me stories as she cooked and I watched. As I got older, she would let me participate and that's how I learned.


K and S June 14, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Most times I cook because that is what I want to eat. I am inspired by what others are cooking/blogging and want to try what they have done/eaten. Sometimes I cook for comfort, being away from friends and family, by cooking items that I've grown up with helps.


Leigh June 14, 2009 at 5:43 pm

I am inspired by many things – a lot of times it's by something I see online (btw – I have tried several of your recipes, but I just haven't let you know yet… :( ). As I grow more as a wife and a momma, I am really inspired by my family. My hubby works so hard during the day, and the joy I can give him by having a tasty filling meal on the table at dinner time is amazing. My boys are a challenge to feed, so I find myself loving to try new recipes to see who will eat what. As for why I cook what I cook – I was raised with a very limited amount of meals my mom would make – so when I started to discover "new" foods, I decided I would branch out in whatever way I could, as often as I could. So my repertoire has increased greatly, as well as my cooking skills – and I'm always trying to make sure my family eats healthy foods, so I make a lot of things from scratch so I know what my family is eating (also important b/c of my 3 yo's allergies). OK – long rambling answer, but there you go!


sphinx63 June 14, 2009 at 5:50 pm

What inspires me to cook is when I find a new cookbook at the library, I just can't wait to try out some of the recipes! And I cook what I cook mostly to satisfy everyone in the family, so I try to find things that everyone likes. If there is a recipe that just I like or just my husband likes, I don't really every make it again. I feel like I'm wasting my time cooking something that only one person likes.

sphinxcw at aol dot com


nfmgirl June 14, 2009 at 6:04 pm

It really depends on my mood. I often find that I'll make plans for a few meals and will buy the ingredients. Then a few days later I find that I am no longer in the mood for what I planned on cooking that night.

However I am now trying to get into seasonal eating– eating locally and what is in season. This will be a slow process.


Anonymous June 14, 2009 at 6:28 pm

When I was young I was very admired my friends who know how to bake cakes. And I never dream that I can do so since two years ago I found a marble chiffon cake recipe in a newspaper. So I decided to try it and with the help of my sis in law I finally make it. That was my first time baking. From that time on, I always searching recipes in the net, book stores and even attend cooking course. You can never know how to decribe your feeling when you see your family members happily enjoying your foods. And you know you will never stop trying and cooking for them. In my heart I always want to thanks to my sis in law and "kuali". Without that recipe and the help of my sis, I think till today I still dont realise that cooking can makes you feel so much satisfaction.

[email protected]


Anonymous June 14, 2009 at 6:55 pm

I am inspired to cook what I cook by the necessity of fixing something for my lady's groups, church functions, family parties, and whatever sounds good at the time. I love to go browsing for new cookbooks in the book stores, bought one just last week The Bread Bakers Apprentice. Home cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables is wonderful and so much healthier for us. Thanks for sharing so much with us on your blog, Stella.

[email protected],net


Semsavblanc June 14, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I had to think hard about this one! I love it when I think about something I've never really thought about before and then I come up with a little revelation. The thing/things that inspire me to cook are the people I am cooking for.
Usually it is my husband. He loves being cooked for. He loves coming in the door at the end of the day and smelling his dinner cooking. He nearly swoons, not only because he loves the smell, but because he loves that he has someone who loves him and is home, cooking his dinner! His favourites? Tuna mornay, meatloaf or any old fashioned comfort food, baking away in the oven. He is a pleasure to cook for and my inspiration.
So are my family and friends. Knowing that I can bless them by cooking for them is my biggest inspiration.
This of course, all goes hand in hand with beautiful, inspiring, down to earth, funny food blogs (yours is the only one I really read), talking over recipes with Mum or best friend and reading beautiful recipe books. If you love food and cooking, I guess just about everything about it is inspiring.


Anonymous June 14, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I feel strongly the need to cook everything in my fridge before it all rots, in the tastiest combination that is still edible.


Nicole-Lynn June 14, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I love reading your blog, the recpies are great, thank you. What inspires me most when cooking is aiming to cook foods that are healthy and that are good for me. I used to eat so many processed, high in sodium foods, and white carbs, and making the switch to healthier options has really made me feel so much better and healthier. I love finding new recpies and getting new ideas from different sources like your blog.
I need some measuring spoons!

[email protected]


Lesley June 14, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I am "Lesley" in post 6:02!


Chow and Chatter June 14, 2009 at 8:28 pm

great question I cook new foods all the time, i am inspired by travel, food shows, restaurants, friends, I eat food from all over the globe, i am a Brit married to an Indian living in the US, Variety is the spice of life right?
rebeccasubbiah at yahoo dot com


Abigail (aka Mamatouille) June 14, 2009 at 9:28 pm

I cook and eat whatever makes my tummy rumble (almost everything!) and whatever I can get the ingredients for over here in Japan (without spending an arm and a leg at too many import shops).


Kelly June 14, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I cook things that I think will surprise Yasu, and I try to cook Japanese dishes home-style which might make him feel comforted, being so far away from home and all.

I also like trying dessert recipes because we tend to get stuck in the icecream rut, where we only ever have icecream, and I think there are too many desserts out there to try in this lifetime, so I try to be creative and make them for our dessert instead of whatever is easy. A great one that has become famous in our house in a short time is the lemon shortbread bar which is quick and easy but also very yum!

Living in Australia I find we can get almost any ingredient required, and we have 4 japanese supermarkets where i live so I have a wide variety of Japanese produce to choose from and inspire me. I recently was inspired by Tofu when I entered the supermarket, so I've been on a Tofu recipe crusade. :)


Esme June 14, 2009 at 10:31 pm

I recently read the book Sunday at Lucques-which talks about cooking in season and have decided to try that-there is something to be said about by fresh produce by their season-the flavor is so much better-I love buying new books and looking at the photos-that is a great inspiration for me if it looks good and fresh-healthy is always a priority.

I cook food from all over the world-I think it is fun to try new things.

If you are interested I have a contest on my site: for Obama's Blackberry-for an extra entry leave a comment on what you would feed the President-it is interesting to see what people come up with-thanks for the contest I enjoyed what you had to say and what others are saying.


Melanie Gray Augustin June 15, 2009 at 2:58 am

I'm so glad you liked the Pumpkin Scone recipe! Reading your blog today it reminded me that I really should make some soon.

As you know, I'm not great in the kitchen and rarely cook. When I do however, it's such a pleasure, because I only need to do so when I want to. Most of the time, it ends up being something baked because a friend is coming around, or a hearty winter meal to share with hubby. So for me, cooking is about sharing flavours with those I love with something that I created.


Doug June 15, 2009 at 6:16 am

I'm inspired by good food, what else? I'm also inspired by a challenge–can I make something I've never made before? My favorite thing to cook is Thai style barbeque chicken.


ecky June 15, 2009 at 6:44 am

i am usually inspired by what we have in the fridge. the ingredients form the meal. i am sometimes inspired by pictures in cookbooks or magazines. i love reading cookbooks!

elkesten at yahoo dot com


pandemic June 15, 2009 at 8:30 am

I have been cooking since I was a kid. Someone gave me a cookbook for kids, and I decided to make coq au vin. Mom gave me the ingredients, and I went to town, and it was pretty good except for the wine part, I was not used to wine at the time. I cook because my food is better than most people's all prepared foods, and 3/4 of restaurant food. I am getting really tired of cooking even though cool blogs such as yours give me impetus to try new things, (and I do, making my own adaptations along the way, mostly because I may be missing an ingredient). I should have written a cookbook long ago. I had a friend who stopped talking to me until I wrote that book, and I have no idea what became of him, because I never got it written.
I love to bake especially, but now I am trying to lose weight, and baking is not the path to unbearable lightness. Trust me, you are not in a vacuum, you are being followed by tons of people, and you are loved.


Wendy June 15, 2009 at 9:33 am

What inspires me in the kitchen is pretty much EVERYTHING. I'm addicted to several blogs, which is one source, but I'm also fortunate to have a farmer's market right around the corner from my work – so when I go on my daily walk, I get to see what's in and looking irresistible that day. I have to admit that hormones also play a part in my inspiration … for instance, the grilled chocolate sandwich … sheesh :)


Shelley June 15, 2009 at 10:04 am

I have had these measuring spoons in my Amazon cart since your last giveaway but haven't bought them yet. Yay for another chance to win.
Why do I cook what I cook?
Boring answer: I like to cook from scratch because it's cheaper and I have more control over the ingredients. It's easier to avoid all the unnatural stuff. I'm not a great cook, but I still love to do it. I love trying new recipes because I get bored easily cooking the same things over and over. I also love to see what others are cooking or baking, even if I never make it myself! Pictures of food and the cooking process give me a little thrill! I always look forward to seeing what you've been cooking up!


Feeder of the Hungry Beans June 15, 2009 at 10:28 am

I cook to feed my family. That sounds so mundane, but it's fundamental and inspiring at the same time. I want my kids to learn to enjoy good food, fuel their bodies, and know their place in the food ecosystem.


mndnlsn June 15, 2009 at 11:00 am

Like the Feeder of the Hungry Beans, I try to use my family as the inspiration for what I cook. My husband grew up with a dad who did the cooking and made mostly what my husband describes as "grub". Think beef stew over egg noodles or shake-and-bake pork chops with mashed potatoes and canned green beans. . .Tastey stuff, but way heavier than I would choose to eat. So trying to incorporate homey flavors into lighter foods and formats(Salald greens with grilled pork tenderloin slices and quickly sauteed green beans & peppers instead of chops and taters, for example) that a 3 year old and and 18 month old will still be attracted to. And when I can't think of it on my own, Rachel Ray often can. :)
Of course, this is when I am not pregnant. Right now I have completely lost my cooking mojo and have no inspiration. Come out soon womb-dweller and let me have my digestive system back!!


vegetablog June 15, 2009 at 12:52 pm

to be quite honest, right now what I cook us usually the thing that is easy and fast — and most of the time it's relatively healthy — because I'm hungry and don't have a lot of time!
But I have a lot of fun cooking when I am playing with an idea I saw on Iron Chef America or trying a recipe from a food blog that made me drool when I looked at it…
I also am inspired by my garden– when I see my fresh herbs, I want to use them! and when the tomatoes start coming… oh baby… i can't wait!


Shelly June 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Mine is mainly inspired by what I have a 'hankering' for. But my husband does most of our cooking and he tends to go by the 'standard rotation.' Recently I have found great inspiration from food blogs – especially for quick easy meals


Amber June 15, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I do get inspired to cook when I see a recipe/picture/cooking show that makes me want to lick the page/computer monitor/tv. I like to try things out of my comfort zone, or methods of cooking that I feel are out of my league–to a point. Mainly, I get tired of the same fight at the dinner table, and the same expected tastes and textures. So once a week, or every other week I try something new. It's 50/50 whether or not if works out or anyone even likes it.


Stephanie June 15, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I love your blog-and soooooo appreciate the freebie pdf's! You rock!

Well I hope baking counts as cooking! I absolutely love it!! It gives me so much joy to bake a cake or cupcakes for other people.

It is also so fun to look at other peoples creations and go from there! I love to bake from scratch and am teaching myself along the way.

I do like to cook as well, so thanks for the great recipes!!!

Stephanie Rex
[email protected]


Katie June 15, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Lately I'm inspired by my new hobby: baking bread. And lately most of what I cook is inspired by the bread and what will go well with it! That is when I have the time and energy to do all that of course.
katiekarr at gmail dot com


alexandjess June 15, 2009 at 1:51 pm

This probably isn't new to you, but I meal plan and I try to make one new thing each week. It helps to keep things changing and I have fun in the kitchen cooking up something I've never tried before.

Also, I skim recipe website (blogs like yours!).
Thanks so much for the yummy thing syou make and share.


Emily June 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Cheap ingredients inspire me! Thanks to the internet.


aofa June 15, 2009 at 2:39 pm

I cook to feed myself and my husband = ) But I'm creative in the kitchen to make it tasty and more exciting. I didn't really like cooking at first, but as I've tried out things and come up with my own recipes, I've found myself enjoying it more and more! When I got engaged, my mom gave me a poster that says "I kiss better than I cook"! So I've suprised everyone by being the one who cooks!


Emily June 15, 2009 at 2:45 pm

When I first started really learning to cook my goal was to try one new recipe a week. Now I grow a lot of my own food here on my property, including my meat. So, it's learning how to process and store my garden and livestock as then use my food storage in new and creative ways. Living in the Northwest also gives constant inspiration. Fresh salmon anyone?


Alice H June 15, 2009 at 4:44 pm

My love of variety inspires me in the kitchen – I love to try new recipes and experiment. I also try to eat healthy. So the things I cook are often new and have extra vegetables in them (if it makes sense to put them in of course!) thanks! alicedemskehansen at gmail.com


maybelle's mom June 15, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Hey, I just found your blog from somewhere or another. Its great. What inspires me–curiosity for how ingredients go together, my daughter and feeding her well, my husband and feeding him well, aesthetics and making beautiful food.


Leanna June 15, 2009 at 6:32 pm

I get inspired by finding an interesting recipe and trying to tweak it in ways to make it work with the ingredients we have on hand or to spice it up more to suit our family's taste. I cook to see the look on my husband and daughter's faces when they enjoy something I've made.


Wendy June 15, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Honestly, I cook for my family… specifically my husband. I love the complements :) Plus, I have so much fun in the kitchen, and I enjoy good food.


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