'What magic power would you choose if you could?'

Krystyna Kovalenko chooses cooking! 

Listen to this podcast to find out why. 


Written and voiced by Krystyna Kovalenko

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I was once laughed at having answered the question 'What magic power would I choose if I could' with cooking! Frankly speaking I still can't get the reason of all the mocking as sincerely believe cooking to be one of the most magic powers and incredible arts mankind has ever invented. It surely is much older than music, poetry or dancing as reveals the inevitable result of humans taming their natural desires.

They say people are mostly destructive but if you look at the issue closer, you may notice that we are actually rather decorative. We do care more of the way food tastes and looks much more rather than how healthy or nutritious it is. We do probably care more of what we eat and what we wear or even sometimes say. All our life is about eating and cooking. It is art, it is hobby, it is duty, it is business, it is pleasure, it is life.

Back in my childhood I used to stay home alone a lot, which surprisingly did not scare me even a bit. Kitchen was my birds nest and stage. Imagining myself as a host of some at that time popular cooking TV show, I could be talking for hours to my imaginary audience explaining all the tiniest details of every dish. I would open all the kitchen cabinets, take out all the bowls, casseroles with their heavy lids falling on my head, pans, dishes… Even the garlic grater, potato masher, nutcracker, corkscrew and soup ladle - just because I liked the way they looked, not that I had any intention of using them. With all the utensils on the table the most fascinating part started: the cooking itself. I would show and explain how to slice the tomatoes and dice the potatoes, would imagine rolling the dough and baking all kinds of cakes and pies, show how to chop the meat and smoke fish… Oh, those were good times! As time passed, however, my passion for imaginary-cooking passed and was not substituted with any attempts of real food-preparing.

When my mother opened her first restaurant (I was about to graduate from school then) I was more than sure that kind of business was definitely not my cup of tea. It was simply beyond my comprehension why she would care that much about cooking and enjoy spending hours in the kitchen chopping, boiling, frying, peeling, stirring, skimming and roasting. And it is not that she has some kind of culinary education or background, just a talent and a burning desire to express herself in a vast variety of recipes to satisfy the most philistine as well as the most fastidious and picky eaters. Nevertheless, after the first time I tried a bite of cooking I momentarily acquired a taste for it. That is when such magic words as aperitif, al forno, ravioli, bolognaise or entrecote started making sense. The more I was practicing the dark magic of cooking the more I realized how not easy it actually is to do the dish to a T and not burn it to a crisp.

Cooking something new has become an anticipated adventure for me. I am still figuring out the difference between short and long grain rice for this or that dish, beauty of basil in salad and bitter-sweet odor of saffron in meat. But I have come to the point that makes always sense: never follow the recipe step by step, use your imagination and the final results will be mouth-watering.