I love cooking, and I really miss it when I don’t do it. I’ve had this weird awful flu for the last three days, and I just made it downstairs and was totally shocked that our kitchen is actually clean. My wife must have cleaned it and, since I haven’t been able to totally screw it up, it has stayed that way.

What I love about cooking is figuring it out on a molecular level. I like building meals based on a snowball routine, to start with tiny little moves early on and then build things the right way. That initial steps you make can change the whole thing.

Like, if you’re making bread, you basically need some flour, some leavening, some kind of sugar, some water, maybe eggs… but how you put it all together will turn it in to a loaf of bread. If you’re making cake, it’s basically the same things, just totally different amounts and different versions of each. Bread requires high protein flour, the leavening should be yeast, and the sugar could be just a little honey. The water could be switched out with milk, and you can just use one egg. For cake, it’s totally different – low protein flour, baking soda/powder for leavening, up to a whole cup of sugar and at least two eggs.

I just think it’s so beautiful, because you can just do whatever you want. All you need is time, and friends or family who don’t care if you make something that sucks. This is *baking* we’re talking about, the kind of thing I always assumed was in the same category as science contest. When you’re doing the stove-top thing… I mean, you can screw with the ingredients and basically be just fine.

If a recipe calls for half an onion, you could put in two whole onions. If it calls for two garlic cloves, you could put in eight. It might wreck what you’re doing, or you might totally love it.

My mom taught me all of this. Cooking without a recipe, she made everything growing up. She was as comfortable on top of the stove as she was in it. I watch a lot of food network television and I see a lot of people talking about things like knife skills and spice rubs and ovens set to temperatures like 385…

I mean, 385? That seems pretty specific. Like, a little bit too specific. Like, they’ve got these shows where they call each other “chef” the same way we call people who spent 14 years in college “doctor”. When your oven is set at 385, how close to 385 is it? The oven cycles anyway, it’s gonna drop down to 350? Maybe?

I think it’s great that we have recipes out there, and that all of them have measurements in quarter teaspoons, because it’s great that we’ve got guidelines. But it means that when a cook doesn’t have their cookbook, they freak out. I was taught to bake by my mom, who measured everything in the middle of her hand. She would knead the dough until it felt right, because the humidity and temperature in the house is gonna change it all anyway.

It’s just a shame that cooking can’t be a blue collar sport. Iron Chef America is certainly fun to watch, but I’d love to see a food network show starring my mom. Covered in flour, holding her hand up to camera so you can see how much salt fits in her hand, and generally making things “hot” and then letting them “cool off” before “we eat it.”