The Unexpected Way I Found Cooking Inspiration

Kitchen Diary: Kate in New York City

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When people ask where I find the time and inspiration to cook so frequently, my answer is usually that I simply love it and so I always find space in my schedule. The truth is, time is precious and it's tough to wait for inspiration to strike in strange and mysterious ways. This past weekend inspiration and an uber-love for cooking hit me in such an unexpected way — as I was actually sitting back while others cooked for me.

Because friends and family know my love of cooking, it's actually rare for me to attend a dinner party or partake in a home cooked meal that I didn't have some small hand in. Whether it's whipping up a quick salad dressing or taking over for the final broiler crisp on a casserole, I'm always keen to lend a hand.

Recently though, I spent the weekend with new friends in rural Pennsylvania relaxing on a farm. With 13 of us in one big house, the cooking duties had to be wrangled by someone for fear of us just snacking nonstop and never eating a real meal. Fortunately, the task was taken up by two individuals with impeccable taste, the sort of people you'd be thrilled to have dreaming up your breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two days. While I offered to help at any pass, the kitchen was clearly their domain. As I scrubbed dishes (my go-to helper task for the weekend), I realized it was a feeling familiar only because I was often doling out tasks.

After a day trudging through the snowy woods and watching the most beautiful sunset, anticipation for dinner was high. The food was phenomenal — hearty, complex in flavor, and something I would never think to do. I was awestruck and inspired. What was on this lentil salad, and how was this the most deliciously tender beef stew to ever cross my path? Not only would I need the recipe, but note to self: hang out with these people more often!

As kids we were always begging our parents to take us out to eat, but it occurred to me that now a thoughtfully prepared home cooked meal has become the coveted way to spend an evening. In a world where busy schedules lead to take-out and meals on the go, is there anything more special and surprising than a meal cooked with so much joy by others?

When have you been unexpectedly surprised as a guest to a meal?

(Image credits: Kate Gagnon)

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