What inspires you to cook?

I was interviewed recently by Tempting Places, a French online travel magazine. Here’s the interview (it’s in French ^_^;), and there are also a couple of recipes - one for Nibuta or poached and marinated pork, which is a simplified version of the recipe here, and another for mushrooms steamed with sake and ginger, which I’ll put into English and post here soon.

The reporter asked me quite a few interesting questions. One was about what inspires me to cook. In my reply I said travel, restaurants, roaming around markets, even supermarkets, and so on. But other possibilities were brought up. Movies can definitely inspire - who hasn’t seen Big Night and wanted to make that timpano? Books can too - I can’t read things like The Pickwick Papers or the Anne of Green Gables series without wanting to bake a cake or tackle some plum preserves or something.

But the one that really made go ‘huh, I never even thought of that one’ was music. I can’t really say that music has ever inspired me to cook something. Another one that has never inspired me personally is art - I love art, and I know that food is depicted often in art - but do I want to bite into an apple after seeing some Cezanne paintings? Not really. Somehow, art and food and appetite don’t quite connect together in my brain.

What about you? What inspires you to cook? Have you been inspired by a piece of music, or a work of art, to go into the kitchen?

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Re: What inspires you to cook?

Cookbooks! A day off (very rare for me these days). The thought of bread in general. Hubby picking rhubarb. Good food blogs.

avlor | 14 October, 2010 - 00:50

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Living on my own now, I'm relatively new to cooking. Though I come from a long line of excellent chefs, little of that knowledge has been passed on to me as they were of the "cooking by instinct, never measure anything" school. So as I learn, its been a chance to explore, to branch out and try things that would be unheard of back home. Feeding myself is a necessary part of my day, but now its become a creative outlet with near instant feedback. This evening I decided that cauliflower and grape tomatoes oven roasted in pesto might be a good idea, and you know what? It was! And that makes me very happy. ^^

Kitty | 14 October, 2010 - 03:39

Re: What inspires you to cook?

I can't say that a lot of things really inspire me to cook. Primarily, I cook because I need to, and because I'm faster and more economical than Boyfriend. But, the few things that have sent my hands in the direction of the kitchen, dragging me unwillingly behind, intent on making food are usually a particularly well written passage about food in a novel, and sometimes the sight of food on tv/movie/commerical. This isn't really the inspiration to cook so much as the inspiration to EAT the food, which is why I again say that honestly, nothing really inspires me to cook. Some things just make it easier.

Athena | 14 October, 2010 - 04:01

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Hunger. Since nobody else is going to cook for me, I better hustle to it! =) That, and it's totally a creative outlet.

Cooking for others, though, is totally a function of relationships. Sharing food is seriously the best way I know to show affection. Christmas cookies, birthday cakes, quick'n'dirty weeknight pasta dishes... If it makes'em smile, it's totally worth it!

kanaloanui | 14 October, 2010 - 04:33

Re: What inspires you to cook?

I would have to say most of the time love inspires me to cook. I know that sounds cheesy but really for me I tend to cook for those people I love. Cooking, for me, is an expression of my feelings for others. I always cook with others in mind, like how my food will affect them and how their feelings change what I want to cook.

Zhaneh | 14 October, 2010 - 07:37

Re: What inspires you to cook?

I must say I totally agree, even if as you say it may seem cheesy! Wanting to use family and friends as willing guinea pigs, and spread the joy is one of the strongest inspirations for getting in the kitchen and being creative!

I would love to hear from someone who has been inspired by music or art to cook, as it's certainly not something I can say I identify with, but it's an interesting thought. Books, magazines, TV (Masterchef especially!) and such certainly influence me, but I think my biggest drive is simply artistic inspiration itself - it's nice to apply the same creative streak I find drives me in my art and writing to cooking. We all need to eat, but it's even better to make it beautiful and do it with love.

pii_bii | 14 October, 2010 - 20:23

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Another vote in the "cooking for others" category. If I think about it, I don't actually enjoy cooking; what I really enjoy is feeding other people really good food. Today I made my first-ever solo bento (my family members each have different lunch engagements), and to do it solely for myself seemed less inspiring, more a chore than a pleasure.

Fat Lady | 19 October, 2010 - 17:28

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Pretty much the same for me: books whether novels or cookbooks, cooking magazines, blogs, restaurants and people.

Lori | 14 October, 2010 - 08:16

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Reading food blogs (which keep me inspired to try new things as well) and watching food network, mostly. I sometimes glance at cookbooks in the bookstore, but for the most part I use the web for recipes. It's kind of fun to punch in a handful ingredients into google and seeing what comes up!

I also feel inspired after watching movies, though I can't say I've ever read a book with a decent food passage. That is, unless you count the description of human jerky in Breathers: A Zombie's Lament. ;)

Erica | 14 October, 2010 - 10:53

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Thank you Maki for the interview, it was a real pleasure. I invite all your fans to read your clever answers in the article ! I love to ask about inspiration in cooking, I am always surprised as what inspired the chefs, it can be a colour, a travel, an ingredient, etc.Amaizing. I wonder if cuisine may inspire an artist ?:)

Catherine | 14 October, 2010 - 12:56

Re: What inspires you to cook?

For me, what really inspires me is seeing great food!

I never really watch TV, but I ALWAYS watch the good food programs. It's inspiring to see how different people use food combinations and to see techniques.

I think that what inspires me most though is following food blogs. I am so excited when I see a beautiful photo of some great food! I love how friendly the foodie community is generally (especially people who make bento!).

Hope that makes sense!

James Brooks | 14 October, 2010 - 12:56

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Boredom is my biggest inspiration to cook. Wanting to try everything, but unable to really travel the world to experience different cultures, and flavors, I'm forced travel the world in my kitchen. Another inspiration is all those competitive cooking shows. I can't watch them without wanting to try what I saw.

Jen | 14 October, 2010 - 13:55

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Kudos for the interview in French! Did you do it directly in French or did they translate it for you?

Inspiration to cook comes from ingredients for me, mainly. So eating out, going to markets and supermarkets etc. Also travelling is a major source of inspiration. I've never been inspired by art. I am inspired by raw things that scream out for transformation, and art is rarely 'raw'. Even though, maybe some movies or books could be classified as art, couldn't they?

Caffettiera | 14 October, 2010 - 15:48

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Hi,
Usually my inspiration starts very small, an offhand remark by a co-worker or my wife gets me to associate with a aroma, or location or (with a detailed almost loving relation to an event or dinner) a meal that was even better in the telling than in the eating! From these associations, with a few nudges from my wife, come the food and seasonings I will cook with or try to recall that event. It may take days to realize this meal or the urge overpowers to such an extent that some I must create this right away. There are failures involved, but good fun too. Since I have been following your blog(s), my need to create has also gone into following your take on Japanese fare. My Curry Rice and Onigiri are prominent in my borrowing your ideas. I am so pleased have found you, and my family is too.

mysofa | 14 October, 2010 - 16:47

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Walking around in a market.

I find myself picking different kinds of ingredients and spices thinking of thousands of combinations, and just can't wait to get home and try recipes out. And eat it all.

Beatriz Berto | 14 October, 2010 - 20:17

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Actually, on the subject of music there is a song that makes me want to cook. It's (my favorite band) the Sick Puppies' song 'Pitiful'. The song opens with the lyrics "made the toast, burned the eggs; never got the hang of them; just another other day". It always makes me pause, and think "burned eggs?"...and then eggs on toast start to sound good.

kakugori | 15 October, 2010 - 05:55

Re: What inspires you to cook?

My biggest influence must be the weather. On a blisteringly hot day I feel inspired and motivated to bring fresh, zingy and sometimes bitter tastes together (a perfect example is the goya and chikuwa hiyashi soba with fresh tomato and doubanjiang recipe I once posted a link to)
On a cold nippy day I like freshly made vegetable breads and soups and stews.
Of course, blogs and recipe books will whet my appetite, but I find the weather plays a huge factor in which foods 'jump' out at me.
And I can't imagine what it would be like to watch an Ozu film without craving ochazuke, but I think that food and films is more to do with the Spanish saying "culo veo, culo quiero" (lit. I see bum, I want bum) which describes the feeling of coveting something you didn't actually want until you saw it or someone else with it.

Loretta | 15 October, 2010 - 18:22

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Food itself! There are times when I go shopping, find something delectable and simply get excited on how to use it in a recipe! Hmm... interesting cooking tips do the same thing though. I find that if someone posts a tip that would spruce up a dish, I'm already up and trying it before I know it. Its why farmer's markets are so dangerous for me! LOL

Deven | 16 October, 2010 - 19:37

Re: What inspires you to cook?

My children! I love to cook interesting food for my very appreciative son and daughter. And often a good cookbook (something by Nigel Slater, for example) will supply the creative spark.

gilda92 | 17 October, 2010 - 06:28

Re: What inspires me

On the one hand, my inspiration is quite ordinary: I cook to fill a need I have for fresh, delicious food. Cooking can be significantly cheaper than eating out, and eating at home is often more comfortable. My friends and family also appreciate being cooked for, so that's motivation.

On the other hand, there are many random things that also really inspire me: excellent food blogs like Clotilde Dusoulier's, Molly Wizenberg's and yours; food articles I read in the Wednesday New York Times; food-related pieces on my favorite radio show, The Leonard Lopate Show (WNYC); food-related magazines (The Art of Eating, Saveur, Gourmet back issues, Bon Appetit); and great dishes I eat in restaurants in other cities that I want to replicate.

Emily S. | 17 October, 2010 - 19:50

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Family and friends. Cooking for each other is not just a "throw it on the table thing", it is the ultimate way that you can share your love with each other. Maybe someone found something French or Japanese... on the Internet, TV, whatever. Cooking with them is an occasion. From the recipes, to shopping specialty markets, to setting aside a day to devote to each other, it is usually on a weekend. By now, we are a pretty well oiled machine, yet things stay loose, but the laughter, music, wine, and ultimately the result is the loved ones around the table. It's always a celebration of life, food, and love.
Invite those who have no one to share a meal with. All will be blessed.

Karla | 18 October, 2010 - 18:43

Re: What inspires you to cook?

My desire to eat differently every night inspires me to cook. I need new flavours all the time; I hate being bored!

Alyson | 19 October, 2010 - 03:01

Re: What inspires you to cook?

Can't say that art inspires me to cook... not even movies such as Babette's Feast or Eat Drink Man Woman, these just make me hungry but the recipes often don't look very achievable to me (the kitchen-noob). Same with novels, I've read a few (similar to 'like water for chocolate') with recipes dotted through the storyline, they didn't do anything for me.

I still need a recipe for practically everything I make. I do get inspiration from cookbooks, cooking magazines, cooking shows, and cooking blogs, all with pictures: I usually need to see the dish in order to want to try and make it.

kim | 19 October, 2010 - 11:31

Re: What inspires you to cook?

I guess it's stress and nausea from having to eat one same dish every single day. Cooking makes me go "Aaaa~h... this is satisfying" Maybe because it let me cut whatever I have in my hand, pound them and basically channeling my inner demon, legally. ( ⟢ ‿ ⟣ )
Also, it let me eat what I really want to eat, not the food that I'm forced to eat in the area around my dorm (they all taste the same, plus super oily).

And there's also the craving after seeing food blog (especially yours, Maki. I always go hungry after visiting JH (- ⋎ - ; ) )

Jane | 20 October, 2010 - 06:04

Re: What inspires you to cook?

The need to eat? Or the neat to whip up something that I my eating disorder will ALLOW me to eat when I am surrounded by scary foods.

I'm told I cook well, but I find it a bit boring. I prefer to bake, but my husband doesn't have a sweet tooth and I torture myself over any excess of calories, so I never do it.

Isa | 21 October, 2010 - 11:33

Re: What inspires you to cook?

one of my biggest inspirations is the weather. i love experiencing all four seasons & the changes that come with it often inspire me to make certain dishes.

we're in the middle of fall where i am now & with the leaves turning & halloween being right around the corner, i made pumpkin bread last weekend. fun stuff!

m | 27 October, 2010 - 16:43

Re: What inspires you to cook?

The ingredients and the people that I love.

Sometimes, I've found an ingredient that just inspires me: heirloom tomatoes at their peak, organic almonds, fresh fish, or pumpkins.

Usually, I don't get inspired unless I'm doing it for someone that I love: family, friends, and soon to be friends.

Matthew | 28 October, 2010 - 00:16

Re: What inspires you to cook?

I never had any cooking/home economics classes in high school or college, and I was definitely more interested in studying than cooking. It was only recently that I got inspired to cook. I have three main inspirations: blogs about food (now you know how I happened to get to your blog hehe), Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares, and anime! I'm not a great cook, I don't know any traditional recipes, but I am always happy when my husband enjoys my kitchen experiments. Oh, and I also love slimy food! :D

ShmellyCat | 28 October, 2010 - 17:30

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