From 2006-2008 I lived alone in a yurt on the Mongolian steppe. My desire to cook was more out of nutritional necessity than any inherent interest. A diet consisting of boiled sheep’s innards, dried milk curd, and the odd potato, carrot, or onion, is enough to drive anyone to culinary experimentation.
Today, I cook because it is one of ways in which my mother and I relate as adults. I cook because good, home-cooked food is an incontrovertible excuse to drink good wine. I cook because people don’t expect twenty-something men with unruly hair to have secret ingredients. I cook because no one else makes it spicy enough.
In the summer of 2007 I took up residence next to a river, miles from the village and without a neighbor in sight. I lived almost solely on what I caught from the river: fat, beautiful rainbow trout. I learned every conceivable way to prepare them: baked, smoked, sautéed, fried, boiled, stewed, and stuffed in dumplings. I even took the risk of trying trout sashimi-style. No cooking method, however, satisfied as much as cleaning a freshly caught fish, sprinkling it with salt and pepper, and laying it over the hot coals of a fire built on the banks of the river.