I recently celebrated my 5000th meal.
I am pleased with my achievements and trajectory as a cook. I aim to feel the same way about my life as a scientist: my teaching, research, writing. My job as a professor and as cook are similar in their combination of technique, practice, skill, experience, balance of perspiration and inspiration.
Here is what I can learn from my life as a cook that I can apply to my life as a scientist:
Cooking is a habit: I cook most days
I am product oriented: I put the product on the table and serve it as-is. Always a “ta-da!” never with apology.
My attitude is healthy: I spend almost no emotional energy on expectations before the meal nor post-mortem analysis afterwards.
Meals run the gamut from workaday to simply good to superlative to triumphant. The least successful ones I accept as natural part of the variation, and do not erode at my self-confidence.
After successful meals, I congratulate myself aloud at the dinner table. This is followed by Mom—stop bragging. Really? Why not? I take it as my parental duty to acclimatize my son to the swagger of women.
I have cried twice over cooking (discounting onions & shallots which make me bawl). In 1990, I made a spinach sauce that oxidized and my date called it “monkey vomit”. In 2011 I was cooking for neighbors and had marinated small pieces of meat all day and the whole meal dropped to the fire through the grill grating.
In the end, the meal is evaluated without self-judgment. I am analytical: what worked? What didn’t? What's next? Never: I should have done it better, what do my colleagues think about me. No. Not even a little bit.