To start, I think we have to answer a more fundamental question: why do we eat? The most basic of answers is a simple biological necessity. If you don't eat, your body starves, shrivels up and dies. But there is of course more to it than that. If not, then why not just "evolve" food into a nutrient rich paste from which we can all derive our sustenance? Why then did Homo erectus start using fire to cook food? The answer lies in our love of food. I don't think anything else could be far more rudimentary and primal than a love for food. I mean, who does not have that one comfort food? You know that one favorite meal or dish that can be eaten at any time for any reason. From that love of eating comes the love for cooking.
I love to eat. I love food. And I want to make good food that others want to eat. It all starts from wanting to make good food; to make something special. From knowing that if you combine A with B, you not only get C, but you get something that is so much more than the sum of its parts. That C is something that A and B could never achieve alone. This drives me to make good, nay, great food. This is why I hate serving anything that is only ok or even worse, bad. It is such a disappointment when I make food and I know I could have done it better. And lord knows I have had my fair share of disappointments. But from each disappointment I have seen it as a chance for growth and improvement. Every time I have failed I have learned from it. I have seen what I did wrong and how to do it better or correct the mistake and make sure I never do it again. That is why I now make one hell of a kick ass picatta sauce. But for every mistake, there are countless other triumphs. That is where I derive the most satisfaction.
Let me explain. For me personally there is nothing more satisfying than when I hear someone compliment my food. When someone says that what they have eaten that I made is great, it pushes the primordial pleasure centers of my brain. I think it is the same sense of satisfaction that comedians get from laughter and great musicians and actors get from applause. I love hearing this from my friends and family. But it truly has weight when I hear it from strangers and customers who come through my place of employment. I say this because while I know friends and family give comments sincerely, I also know that part of it comes from the relationship we have. When a customer writes an email to the executive chef or comes back and tells me personally, I know my food has caused them enough joy to go out of his or her way to let me know about it. And quite frankly, they really have no incentive to do so.
For this reason, whenever I go out, I make an effort to let the crew in the kitchen know if they have done a really good job. I know at least one of them will appreciate the compliment. As a member of the same industry I know what it takes to produce a great meal. It takes time, dedication, knowledge, sweat and sometimes a little blood and tears. So next time you go out and have a truly great meal, let the guys in the kitchen know it. If there is a comment card, fill it out. If there is not, just tell your server to let them know how much you enjoyed your meal and appreciate the effort put into producing it. Trust me, it goes a long way!
One thing that I have discovered about cooking along the way is that it is really not as difficult as some people might make it seem. Sure, it is not without its share of difficulties and there are some things that take some more advanced skills and know how to produce, but the thing you most need to cook is "ganas" or willingness to do so. Some of the best food ever produced is also some of the easiest and most simple. Just take the humble grilled cheese sandwich. Who does not love grilled cheese? All you need is two slices of bread, some cheese and a skillet. With a little effort you now have some deliciousness. If you really wanted to, you could even dress it up. Use two or three different types of cheese. Add some fresh tomato slices. Add bacon! See? See how simple that is. All it takes is a little effort.
I know the biggest thing that probably keeps people from cooking more is fear. Fear of the food not being edible, much less good. Fear of wasting time or money on something that you can't eat. I understand that. But here is the thing: you have nothing to fear. If you have never cooked anything before then start small and basic. Use recipes. Do your research. After a while you can move on to more difficult dishes and meals. If you keep it up long enough you might even reach the point where you don't need a recipe or if you use one, you use it as a guideline. Whenever you are cooking, just keep this in mind: what's the worst than can happen? You produce something inedible. OK, throw it out, learn from it, and try it again at a later point. I once made pork chops with Worcestershire sauce that were awful. I learned never to do that again. Always remember that there are plenty of pizza places around.
So in the end, I hope this sheds a little light on why some people love to cook. I also hope it encourages everyone to get in the kitchen and give it a shot if you don't do so already. Don't eat just for the sake of eating. Enjoy your food. And if you make your food, I guarantee it will taste that much better.