It Only Takes Ten Years to Figure Something Out
It’s been exactly ten years since I first started to write on a blog. It wasn’t a great blog. The photography was poor (I had absolutely no clue about lighting) and the writing pretty naive. I thought I was funny, but looking back now, I clearly wasn’t. After twenty eight posts of clumsy recipes and bad pictures, I stopped posting. But I didn’t stop cooking and baking. Actually, that first failed blogging experience was the start of a new passion for food and kitchen experiments. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10.000-Hour rule, which means practising around 20 hours a week, for ten years, in order to become really good at something. I didn’t count the hours and I am sure I didn’t reach ten thousand hours of cooking yet. But I thought ten years seemed like a reasonable round number to re-start blogging. Plus, my kid is big enough to do something on his own, while I set up the pop-up photo studio in my kitchen and play with the food until it gets cold.
It took me over a year to figure out what I wanted to do with this blog. The name came naturally since I always dreamt to open a French style bistro named after one of my cats, Chez Moustache. This was during a time when I had little to no clue about what it meant to run a business, not to mention a profitable one. The idea came purely from my fascination with everything French - from boulangeries to fine dining and from Julia Child’s stories of French cuisine to Amélie Poulain and cheesy French movies. When I studied in Le Havre, I often visited a beautiful home decorations store, full of rustic wooden furniture made of reclaimed wood and elegant accessories. If I was going to open my bistro, I had to rent a huge truck, and bring all the interior stuff from there, back to Romania. Thank God I didn’t open any bistro. What a hassle renting such a huge truck would have been!
When I had a name for my new blog that had Moustache in it, I decided it had to be a carefully curated collection of all the things I loved – a bit like a spaghetti sauce you make out of all the ingredients you find in the fridge. It was going to be about cooking good and healthy food, cooking with kids, cooking with cats, homemade recipes, children’s books, zero food waste, food illustrations, photography, ethnic cuisine, science of cooking, food writing and ingredients. And then it was going to be about another ninety nine things. I kept turning in circles in my head and could not start anything. I was stuck. It was not what it had to be. There were too many clichés and nothing really unique or personal. There were other thousand people out there posting great food pictures, writing amazing recipes, having an opinion about what healthy food meant. Plus, many of them were native English speakers who probably didn’t have to read E.B. White’s Elements of Style to get some useful writing and English grammar tips.
But when I also gave up my one hundred seventeenth idea, there was still one question that kept coming back. And it was probably the most simple and essential question of all. Why do people cook? Me, you, our parents, our friends, our co-workers and most people around us and far away. Why do we cook? (Besides the fact we see that sponsored ad from Tasty which magically appears in our Facebook feed 15 minutes before leaving the office, featuring more or less a ton of melting cheese- which is an obvious reason to cook). What motivates us to cook, how do we choose what to cook and how do we choose the right ingredients that make our meals? How do people start cooking and when does it turn from basic necessity to pleasure or even hobby? When we can afford paying a professional to cook for us, so we can have fun and go to the gym, why do we still prefer to cook ourselves?
Most of the people I know, including me, started to cook when they left home, and most of the times out of necessity (also called survival instinct). It’s something you build up in time, during many years of trials and errors. You learn how to cook while going through thousands of personal experiences, making and breaking relationships, good times and bad times, also possibly in parallel with eating a lot of junk food. Some people become good at it and some will never get it. For some people cooking will be relaxation, for others, a burden. Some will enjoy it, others will hate it so much that the take away menu will show up as the first app on their screen. But the most amazing thing about cooking at home is that no app or restaurant can bring back memories, the way homemade food does. Sometimes even memories buried somewhere so deep, that you bet it’s impossible to bring them back. Like when you suddenly find yourself fishing the cherry from the rice pudding (which you always eat while it’s still way too hot, because you have no patience), and you immediately get a flashback. You see yourself at eight, eating the hot milk rice with vanilla sugar that your mom was always serving you from a metal plate with red polka dots. You loved that plate so much, that you could not throw it away even when it started to rust on the sides. You remember perfectly the old kitchen of your parents, the 44 square meters apartment and you can clearly see all the details of that room, the pictures on the wall, the texture of the table cloth and the smell of the freshly painted walls.
Moustachefs is about these moments, captured by me and other people who like to cook and enjoy the discovery and the remembering. It’s a place where I want to collect these moments, so I can remind myself later that life is about the small things and the joy we share with the people around us. Do you know The Big Friendly Giant? In this story, the BFG collects dream jars where he keeps the good dreams before blowing them to the ears of sleeping children with his dream blower. That’s what I want Moustachefs to be about. A food stories and handpicked recipes jar, meant to bring people closer together. It’s about cooking rituals and food stories from the home kitchen of people I care about. It’s about the family meal, and not the à la carte menu. I want to talk to friends, family or people I admire, who enjoy cooking and sharing food. I don’t know where the stories will take me and what new people, dishes and rituals I will discover. But I do know that with every new recipe or story, there will be some new connections happening (and also a baby seal will survive a deadly shark attack).
Cooking is so universal and so present in our daily lives, that we almost take it for granted. Like the omnipresent boring and annoying onion. So writing about it, is an opportunity to dig deeper, reveal forgotten memories and think about all the things we don’t have time to think about when we’re running our daily roller-coaster. Cooking is not something hard, as long as we keep it simple and affordable. So instead of watching cooking shows and spending our precious time on Instagram dreaming about the perfectly looking dish, we should all just try something easy, make it ourselves and share a meaningful experience with someone we care about.