Slaving away all day in a kitchen with little immediate yield sounds daunting. You know whatever you are cooking will be worth it, but in the end there is going to be someone who can’t tell the difference between a store-bought Ragout and homemade tomato sauce that was infused with sweat, tears, and the love of a chef. So why do it? What keeps us coming back at the end of a hard work day to a hot, cramped space when ordering a pizza is faster and less labor intensive? The answer is either immediately apparent to you as you read this, or you aren’t a cook.

My Mamam

Before I get to the point, let me throw out an example. When I was a child, my grandmother made this wonderful pasta dish that was hands-down my favorite meal. I’ve made here. When she passed away while I was in high school, the recipe seemed to disappear with her, but that didn’t stop me from constantly trying to recreate a taste from memory. My mother gave me my start–explaining how to make a cream sauce, and when and how long to cook the vegetables and shrimp–but it only took the dish so far. A distant cousin who can’t speak the language.

But I continued–five years–perfecting my bechamel sauce while working at Cooking Light–and finally, almost by accident, stumbled upon what I had been missing: parsley. As soon as I added the fresh herb to my sauce, I could smell the difference. Did that dish taste more delicious than the others I’ve made throughout the years? Probably not–but the memory of my grandmother comes back to me with every bite, and the love I feel for her when making it the way she made it is something you can’t buy in a store.

So back to my original question. Why do cooks slave away for hours? Clearly, it’s for love. Love of food–love of family–love of fine ingredients.

Last Saturday, I had a day-long experience devoted to the love of cooking by spending it with my friend and coworker MaryLynn–a truly awesome Italian mother whose kitchen turns into a tomato factory every weekend from August through October as she makes homemade tomato sauce.

Tune in tomorrow to see more details and pictures from my Sauce Weekend, but for now–see some great pictures of the final output: my mother’s lasagna. Another dish that brings my family immediately to mind, I couldn’t help but invite my friends and boyfriend over to share a delicious family-style meal of meat lasagna, garlic bread, and Cesar salad. Because for me, life doesn’t get much better than this.

Read Part Two Here (where I actually get into the cooking)

The final meal
Chris showing off his perfectly toasted bread–it’s impressive because it was broiled in our oven
Kate made guacamole cause it’s delicious