PUBLISHER’S COLUMN: THE GREAT EQUALIZER
Rarely do I regret choosing journalism as my career, something I knew I would pursue even as a teenager growing up here in Freeman. But there are times I wonder what my world would look like if I had instead taken up my second love — cooking.
I can’t place exactly when preparing food turned from a necessity into live-giving delight, but I have immensely enjoyed spending time in the kitchen ever since Stacey and I were married 19 years ago. And my love for cooking has only grown stronger as the years have gone by. In fact, when I’ve had a hard day at the office or faced challenges in the raising of teenage children, my refuge is the culinary world.
“If I had to do it all over again,” I have told friends and family, “I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have become a chef.”
Both my mother and mother-in-law, for whom cooking has never been a hobby but rather a chore, just shake their heads at how much enjoyment I get out of perfectly mashing potatoes or flipping a loaded-up omelet or pan-frying a crispy Reuben or preparing a bubbly-hot dish of lasagna or baking a Chicago-style pie. There’s something about the process that scratches a creative and generous itch. I mean, what is more satisfying than preparing tasty food and sharing it with others?
I bet you my best chef’s knife that Mark Johnson feels the same way. He didn’t tell me this in the multiple interviews I had with him over the course of the past year for this week’s cover story, but I guarantee you he takes great delight in cutting off a strip of that beautifully prepared ribeye and saying, “Here, this is for you.”
And I don’t question that he views those gatherings he hosts at his place just south of Marion as practice rounds for his next competition, but there’s a pretty good chance it’s as much about the fellowship as anything. But that’s cooking.
And I think that’s why I’m so drawn to it. As the great, late chef Anthony Bourdain often suggested, food is the great equalizer, which is something he proved by traveling the world in exploration of both culinary arts and the culture that envelops it. When you sit down with others and share a meal together, there is a natural disarmament and a common denominator that few other events can provide. After all, we all need to eat. And what a better coming-together than over a bowl of beef stew or a plate of shrimp scampi or slice of cherry pie, especially when it good.
“This is good!” one might exclaim.
“Yes it is!” another might respond.
And therein lies common ground.
Do I wish I could experience this on a professional level? Do I wish I could try my hand at owning and operating a restaurant (as challenging as that can be; see the story on the right). Often.
But mostly I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be a hobby chef who has family and friends with whom to share my love. Actually, that’s the best thing in the world.