Why I cook: Shaping my palate, food memories, unforgettable meals, and paying it forward

by Ian Wickman

Shaping my palate

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest amidst a circle of family and friends who grew their own food and practiced organic long before it was mainstream has shaped my palate tremendously. Once you have experienced something that captivates your senses it becomes part of you, it is something to be sought after and experienced again. For me, this is what happens when you experience incredible food. Seeking and creating more of these experiences has become a lifelong pursuit.

with Early Food Memories

The earliest experiences that sent me on this journey are all from fresh foods with little to no interference. I remember carrots fresh from the dirt, impossibly sweet and crunchy.  Strawberries plucked from raised rows, warm from the sun, so juicy, and with more flavor packed into each one than an entire flat from the store. I remember rainbow trout pulled from an icy mountain stream. Split and held open with a stick, cooked directly over an open Alder wood fire until it simply falls off the bones and melts in your mouth. This was the beginning, laying the foundation for my love of food.

and Unforgettable Meals

As I have grown older, experienced and experimented more, my tastes have evolved, continuing to build on that foundation. Each time I taste greatness it adds to that foundation or changes it subtly. Whether it was a meal from Wylie Dufresne at WD-50 that experimented with how the essence of food can be harnessed in novel ways. Using techniques at the intersection of mad scientist and culinary tradition and yet clearly still exhibit the soul of the ingredients. Or, opening a wooden box to unleash a puff of smoke, the smell of cedar lingering in the air. Inside, an amazingly simple, sweet and smoky sunflower root from the genius of Blaine Wetzel at The Willows Inn.

Share a meal and pay it forward

This is what inspires me. These are the types of experience I strive to recreate when I cook. This is what I want to share with my family and friends. This is the foundation I’m trying to instill in my daughters (still a work in progress) and this is how I wish everyone felt about cooking. This is why I can’t wait to invite some friends over and share a great meal, laugh, and hopefully pay some of the inspiration forward.

Speaking of which, iF I were going to gather some friends for dinner tonight I would probably grill some salmon with oregano and lemon, add a spring pea tendril risotto, and some simple balsamic green beans, and then finish with a strawberry rhubarb crisp!

Join the Conversation:

What are the food memories or meals that define you? Why do you want to cook? What inspires you?

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.