Jewish Journal

Have olive oil, will travel: Cooking soothes the soul

by Julie Bien

November 6, 2013 | 10:54 am

Photo via Shutterstock

I absolutely love food. I can wax poetic about a falafel ball with  the same enthusiasm that Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote about love. My relationship with dark-roast coffee can only be described as one of dependence. Don’t even get me started on the exquisiteness of the scallop and spicy tuna hand roll at my favorite sushi joint.

From an early age, my parents instilled in me a love of cooking and appreciation of good food. Although my parents and I don’t always have the same taste (my mother swears I’m trying to kill her with cayenne pepper), we do have the same deep appreciation for having access to fresh, seasonal produce. There is nothing like living near a high concentration of farms in a temperate climate--gotta love California.

As an undergraduate college student in the north Monterey Bay, I chose to live next to the organic farm on campus for two years. We had access to fresh fruit and vegetables year round as long as we put in some time working on the farm. Not only that, but there was a spectacular industrial kitchen about 30 feet from my doorstep. It was there that I learned how to make homemade yogurt and cheese, home-brewed nettle beer, homemade limoncello and to blend the best vegan mushroom fondue this side of San Francisco.

I can spend hours poring over my favorite cookbooks--ones that are dog-eared and stained with the juices and drippings of the ghosts of meals past.

My food processor might be one of my most prized possesions (second only to my coffee maker and crockpot.) I chop and blend new concoctions like they're going out of style.  Did you know that the secret to perfect cream of broccoli soup is green tea soymilk? Well, it is

I'm going to let you in on a secret. If I hadn’t gone into journalism, I’d have gone to cooking school instead. I love cooking as much as I love eating (which is to say, a helluva lot), and it’s been that way since I first mastered mustard oven-fried chicken when I was in 5th grade. 

There is something delightfully hedonistic about biting through the shiny, taught skin and into the juicy flesh of a ripe persimmon in fall.

Give me wonton wrappers, bananas and brown sugar, and I’ll make the most decadent fried bananas you’ve ever had.

No matter how hectic my days are (and believe you me, they are mighty hectic as of late), I’m never too tired to throw together a homemade soup or sautee. I'm thinking about a vegetarian masala concotion over brown rice tonight. A girl’s gotta eat, even if she only has an hour between getting home after work and going back out again.

To me, cooking is about nourishing myself—mind, body and soul. No one is going to cook my favorite meal like I am, and no one is going to care about what goes into my body like I do. I don’t see cooking as a Stepford-like submission to pre-feminist role-playing, but rather a step toward independence. I can take care of myself. I can treat myself better than anyone else can. So what if I’m poor? Give me lentils and onions, and with a little curry powder, salt and garlic I will give you a meal fit for royalty.

In lieu of having my own goat farm, café and cookbook, I’ll continue cooking for myself, family and friends; my motto is “have olive oil, will travel.”

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Hi. I’m Julie Bien.

I’m a writing, blogging, coffee-drinking machine.

I also have a thing for sustainability, organic gardening, cooking, and easy crafting. I’m like Martha...

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