Home Cook

A few weeks ago, in another blog, I talked about some words that we no longer use; words that were, in their heyday, known and used by just about anyone who paid any modicum of attention to world events. In that post (click here to read that blog), I discuss words like ‘glasnost’ and ‘politburo.’

In this post, the first of hopefully many about food and food-related topics, I want to discuss another term: home cook. I’m sure it’s been in vogue for a few years now but I first came across it when I was watching The Taste, a reality food contest show in which the judges taste what the contestants prepare without knowing who made it. The judges vote on whether the food is good or not. If it’s good, the chef stays. If it’s not, the chef goes and, because it’s a blind taste test, a judge could vote off one of his or her own team members.

Among the contestants were various members of the professional culinary community. There were, also, many who were not and those individuals were the ones called ‘home cooks.’ I suppose with pros competing – who work and are called sous chefs, chefs, fulltime caterers, sommeliers – the non-professionals had to be called something more catchy than ‘someone who cooks from home and isn’t a professional or formally trained chef.’ That – pun intended – is simply a mouthful. When I was a teenager, the popular term (in food circles) was ‘foodie.’ That term is still used today but I remember, sometime in the mid 1980s, when visiting family and friends in Singapore used the term and had to explain what it meant to my mother. And, she didn’t have to explain it like it was a generational thing. It was just a new term, at the time, used to describe someone who was into food – eating it, creating it, eager to explore new restaurants and expand one’s palate.

I really enjoyed watching The Taste and I’m looking forward to the next season. I, just like the other non-professionals on the show, enjoy cooking (not that the pros don’t) and I even considered applying to The Culinary Institute of America when I was eighteen; when I was going through the whole college application process. If I ever have the guts to audition for The Taste, I already know what I’m going to make as my entry dish. Anyway, so on some level, I guess I can call myself a ‘home cook.’

It’s interesting, though, how the term has become part of our cultural lexicon. At least when I was a kid, and perhaps more recently than that, the idea of cooking at home wasn’t really an idea, at all. Perhaps, because people are eating out more than in decades before, staying home, cooking and eating in is becoming more of an event than the (formerly) commonplace family dinner. People did cook at home but it was just another part of one’s daily life. The closest thing to the idea of a ‘home cook’ was probably the individual who did the occasional catering gig or, at a town picnic, where residents might enter a pie baking or barbecue grilling contest. And, they did so not to win a load of cash but, rather, to win a ribbon or a tin cup and, more importantly the admiration and even envy of their neighbors.

Today, we’d call them  ‘home cooks’ but it isn’t just a quick and easy phrase for someone who cooks at home. To me, it’s a term that’s better suited for someone who cooks at home (at least, not as a profession), who doesn’t have any (or much) formal culinary training, who cooks with some aspiration to doing something with their food outside of their own kitchens. As for me, I like to make certain things and I’ll experiment with different tastes but any aspirations I have with my cooking talents would be to open a small lunch place that serves simple dishes that I’ve grown to love, served over a bowl of rice; things like Filipino adobo and my mother’s Ginger Chicken.

Anyway, whether you’re a pro or a home cook – or, even, a plain and simple foodie – welcome to Panlasa. Thanks for stopping by and hope you read again soon.