Cooking at Home

This column on Apartment Therapy may be one of the best things I’ve read about home cooking. The author, Maxwell Ryan, who started the awesome site Apartment Therapy years ago as a design service, found no matter how he helped clients redesign their homes, if they never cooked in their kitchens, their homes lacked coziness.

I hadn’t really thought before about how cooking influences cozy, but if I think about being truly cozy (which I am thinking about a lot with the approaching autumn) there is usually an associated cooking smell. Cumin-scented soups, caramelizing apples in the oven, cinnamon anything, even a pot of coffee.

Ryan points out that if you don’t cook at home, you end up being at home less and run the risk of your home turning into just a crash pad. One that lacks a truly lived-in feel. Also, he argues that cooking creates pheromones in your home. I don’t know if these pheromones are lasting, but really walking home into a apartment with delicious cooking smells is more of a welcome than a 12-piece brass band greeting you at the door. And so much cozier.

The other day, our old neighbors from our hotelpartment in Yemen came to visit us here in Madrid. They were out all day in Toledo, which is a tiring day of walking. I wanted to make a dinner using ingredients they can’t get in their current African post, so I went with Moosewood’s excellent Hungarian Mushroom Soup, and two Yotam Ottelenghi recipes: Eggplant with buttermilk dressing and pomegranate seeds from his wowza vegetarian cookbook “Plenty” and spinach fritters adapted from his earlier cookbook, “Jerusalem.” Mr. Dame in Spain and I had the tunes on, we were sipping our new favorite fall cocktail, the Boulvardier (like a Negroni, but with bourbon instead of gin), and the chopped onions were sizzling in a pot of melted butter when our friends walked in the door. There are few smells better than onions frying in butter, especially when there’s a little crisp in the air. We all hung out and sipped cocktails in the kitchen while I finished cooking and it was a hearty and relaxing dinner for their last in meal Spain. For me, that beats going to a restaurant. (By a lot actually, since Madrid’s restaurant scene isn’t the most welcoming to vegetarians).

“Cook up a three course meal to add some coziness to your home!” may not be realistic advice for everyone. (And the comments on the Apartment Therapy column got heated, so clearly not everyone agrees on the overall importance of cooking at home). I understand some people don’t enjoy cooking at all, don’t feel they have the time for it, or have never really cooked before and don’t know where to start. Start small. Bake some muffins. Master the art of making really good scrambled eggs (and time it right so you significant other, roommate, house guest wakes up to that yummy smell) Or hey, just put some onions in a pan of butter and enjoy the smell. Those scents will linger, even if just as part of a good memory.

To cooking pheromones,

The Dame in Spain


Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds.
Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds.
Swiss Chard Fritters. (Photo taken from Toast, because we ate ours before I remembered to snap a photo).
Swiss Chard Fritters. (Photo taken from Toast, because we ate ours before I remembered to snap a photo).
Hungarian Mushroom Soup.

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