Millennial Manners: Culinary prowess and hospitality go hand-in-hand

Columnist Ben Jarzombek explains why it’s worth knowing how to cook a good meal.

There are two types of cooking that we all do: cooking out of necessity and cooking because we want to. While it’s true that both ultimately stem from a need to eat, the two could not be more different.

In my life, I’ve met more people who cook because they have to, not because they want to. Usually, people feel that cooking takes too much time, is too hard or is just not that interesting. For me, cooking is one of my favorite activities.

Though I genuinely enjoy the art of cooking, it hasn’t always been that way. When I started to cook by myself, it stemmed from the need to eat, but also the desire to eat real meals instead of whatever was on hand. Somewhere in that dilemma, I found a level of enjoyment from the act of cooking. When I’m cooking, everything else fades away. I’m focused on creating something that I, and others, am able to enjoy. I put my phone far away, turn on music and completely tune out the rest of the world.

I also learned that cooking serves as much more than a way to unwind at the end of a long day. In my opinion, learning to cook well is necessary for any young person. It is one of the ultimate signs of good hospitality and good manners, and I can tell you that I’ve never met a single person who sees the ability to cook as an undesirable skill. Cooking takes practice and patience; almost anyone who has cooked can tell you that you won’t always get it right. However, having a few recipes on hand that you can make well every time can really set you apart.

I did not grow up in a home where we entertained frequently. If unexpected company ever came, it was much to the dismay of my mother, who believed that a few piles of magazines and mail on the counter was enough to convince anyone I’d bring home that we all lived in an episode of Hoarders. When we did host company, though, my parents taught me a lot about what it means to show good hospitality. The center of good hospitality, unsurprisingly, is usually food.

Personally, I don’t see good hospitality as something where “it’s the thought that counts” applies. When cooking, it’s all in the details. Whether you’re throwing something together for your friends instead of a bowl of chips or cooking a full dinner because your family is in town and they don’t actually believe you cook for yourself, it’s important to really take the time and be deliberate in your work. Making a great meal is both a science and an art: To a degree, the proportions and directions are imperative in creating a dish, but sometimes you just have to do what feels (and looks) right.

I’m no Iron Chef, but I can happily say I feel confident in my cooking skills and always want to learn more. While I’m not going to say that everyone will find joy in cooking, I think that everyone should learn to cook well. It’s an invaluable skill that, when used in a social setting, reflects well on your abilities as a host and adult.

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