I did try and turn it into a career, and went to culinary school for a year back in 2005. For various reasons it wasn't the right move, however I don't regret going. Besides learning culinary skills though, I learned something about what gets someone interested in cooking.
At culinary school there was an interesting commonality between the students. Throughout the year as I got to know my classmates better, their reasons behind getting into culinary seemed to be divided into two distinct groups. The first were those who had mothers who had no clue how to cook. You know the joke about people who could burn a pot of water? I heard that joke many times that year. I think they learned how to cook in self-defense.
The other group were the exact opposite. They grew up around mothers and grandmothers who cooked just about everything from scratch. Not only that though, they were involved with the process. Gender didn't make much of a difference, and the class was about evenly split between men and women who fell into this category. They could share stories about memories in the kitchen with ease, and they never seemed to run out. I fall into this category.
There is some romanticism on my part when it comes to my memories. I think the point is though they are good memories, not bad ones. Some of my fondest memories from childhood revolve around food in some way. In Fredericton, where I spent the first 10 years of my life, we made near weekly trips to the local farmers' market, similar to the waterfront market in Halifax. There was a whirlwind of sights and smells as we walked around the market, especially when I had a much shorter view. Some sections had freshly baked bread and pastries for sale, their sugary syrup coating glistening in the light. From cheese vendors came the sharp smells of aged cheddar and marbled blues. Butchers called orders to their staff, and giant slabs of meat were turned into the cuts we are used to. It was all very tempting to my little brain.
In summers, we would go berry picking in nearby fields, which there were many just outside the city limits. Strawberries I think were everyone's favourites. We would spend half a day out in the summer sun, filling pints and sneaking a few berries to eat as well. At home, some were set aside to eat but most were transformed into strawberry jam to pair with peanut butter. A good peanut butter and jam sandwich these days still has the power to take me back to those days.
Most of these ingredients were turned into meals from scratch. That's not to say we didn't eat Kraft Dinner, used pre-made pizza dough, or even just opening a package and microwaved it. The memories though are from the meals we made from scratch.
A lot of the mantra around healthy eating these days involves rules. Eat this, don't eat that, check for hidden additives, etc. On top of that, cooking and home magazines are filled with pictures of "the perfect kitchen" we all should have, and if you don't it implies you are a bad cook. No wonder there is so much anxiety surrounding kitchen's these days. Cooking has turned into a chore, and those who don't cook seem to wear as a badge of pride.
It's important to think about what you are eating, but not to such an extreme. We all have to eat, and what we eat can make a huge difference in our health and lives. I'd like to think though that if we start with making our kitchens places of refuge instead of places of dread, we will go a long way in our goal of healthy living.