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Book Review: Why We Cook – Women on Food, Identity, and Connection, By Lindsay Gardner

Why do we cook? It’s one of those things we just DO. To eat. To feed. It’s an instinctual process that we are exposed to and part of from day one. Maybe it is something we truly love to do, but why?

I’ve never really thought much further into it because one way or another, whether I like it or feel like doing it, it must be done. I do remember, quite clearly still, when I branched off into my own discovery of cooking when I left home for college. At the time, I didn’t have an identity in the kitchen and I felt overwhelmed by what it all entailed – which often led me to eating out rather than venturing in. However, twenty years later and a mother of 3, I find cooking to be many things to me: my duty, my escape, my creative place, my challenge, my avoidance. But it wasn’t until I read this book by Lindsay Gardner, that I actual took a moment to identify why I cook.

In Why We Cook, the author opens up that question to 112 women who are contributors to the contemporary food world. Lindsay Gardner states that, “In sharing their stories they expand our collective understanding of the complex, nuanced relationships women have with food and cooking”, which is exactly what it did for me. From recalling their most memorable meals to essays entitled, “The Invisible Women” and “Five Years Later: Are Women Chefs Still Taking the Heat”, this book is filled with warm memories, delicious recipes and probing questions about the male dominated restaurant industry.

A reoccurring component of the book is “In Conversation” in which the author poses the same question to the contributing women and their answer to a wide range of these questions. Topics include, “What fuels your passion for vegetables?”, “What season makes you most excited to cook?”, “How do you balance your work and personal life?”, and “Cooking is…”, to name just a few. I really enjoyed these sections because I felt like I could relate what these women said directly to myself and many aspects of my life inside and out of the kitchen.

Lindsay Gardner, the author of Why We Cook – Women on Food, Identity, and Connection, states, “My hope is that this book leaves you with more questions than you had when you picked it up”, and to that I say, indeed it did. I love that this book posed some seriously philosophical questions about women and their relationship with cooking. I think the topic has so much more to be explored and appreciate that this book opens up the conversation.

This book is a new addition to our CSA Food Literature Lending Library, a small but growing collection of food related writing and CSA worthy cookbooks. This week we’ll have some of the books displayed for members to browse. In order to check out a book, just send us an email so we can create an account for you, then you’ll have access to this and other great titles.

Book Review by Stefanie Lukmoski, CSA Volunteer