Comfort in Cooking With Family and Friends



My feeling of comfort associated with cooking was discovered as a college student preparing a meal after a particularly rough week of exams. I remember whipping up steak and mashed potatoes with carrots. The problem was that I overcooked the potatoes and undercooked the carrots, none of which worked. I messed up the steak too, it turned out tasting like the equivalent of a shoe sole. 

Never the less, it gave me joy. I felt like I did something positive for me and my then significant other. I felt like if all else goes to the dumpster, I made a masterpiece, and that put a smile on my face. I didn’t give up and tried new things and actually followed a recipe. I consulted friends and more experienced co-workers, and things improved with every try. Sometimes, I still failed but not as badly. 

When I had my daughters, I loved having them in the kitchen with me and would give them small jobs to do to prepare dinner or bake cookies or cupcakes. The smiles on their face and the concentration as we went step by step, warmed my heart. They were proud to have our family taste their products. They still like to make a few things here and there as their desire and will allows and still revel in the joy of having someone enjoy their food. 

At my house at Thanksgiving and my sister’s at Christmas, the two of us prepping in the kitchen, for me, is better than the meal itself. Of course, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot helps.

In recent months, as the world around us stopped, and we could no longer eat out as much; we started cooking more. Once again, I enjoyed contributing something positive, healthy, and enjoyable in a dreary, sad world. Dinner became the focal meal of the day. Before this, we ate between activities and events, whoever was home, was home. However, during the quarantine, we were forced to cook and eat together. Having the girls in the kitchen with me again, made me realize how short-lived this period would be. It would come to an end, I thought, and they’d be off to college and return to friends and activities as always. 

And then, a friend suggested we invite some friends and Zoom with a family member who is a chef, and have cooking lessons. I was interested for sure, but what about our friends? Who would be interested? Some of our friends never showed any interest in cooking at all. Well, on our first call, we had a larger turnout than I expected and with participants who were ready and willing to take their first leap into the world of cooking.

The Zoom lasted three hours and two bottles of Rose. The meal came out great, and our collective families loved it. We loved the company and the lesson equally. So we did more of them, and as they progressed, I was amazed at the effort and detail with which our group took to the lessons. It wasn’t just to hang out, it was really to learn and to make a wonderful meal. Again, in this time of quarantine, cooking made for comfort for all of us.

I hope cooking doesn’t go by the wayside as we move on and get back to our busy lives. Cooking is something I would love to hang on to, and I wish the same for my girls and my friends. Those moments of creating something special or ordinary are shared deeply, and what we give to each other is priceless, no matter how it tastes.

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Alla lives in Ardsley with her husband, two teenage girls and fluffy Havanese dog named Oliver. She is a camp director in Dobbs Ferry for the last 11 years which is her second career. Prior to this career change, she was in finance for over 18 years. Alla enjoys cooking, travel, yoga, good wine and reality TV. Her motto is 'I can learn to do anything and laugh at myself trying.' Learning to live with teenagers and sending them off to college may be the biggest learning curve yet!


  1. Cooking dinner for my family centers my day. Of course that idea of centering went out the window here and there depending on my kids ages, activities etc.

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