why i cook

My relationship with homemade ice cream is a love-hate one. Part of it has to do with the incessant hum of the ice cream machine. If you've never made it before, imagine a power drill going non-stop for 20 minutes.

Yet, here I sit, trying to concentrate and string words together as it whirs in the background. There weren't originally plans to make ice cream today, but you know what they say about drastic times. I was at the Time Warner Center staring at a shiny new refrigerator Vanessa Williams unveiled for Samsung when I saw I missed a call from Mikey.

Then came a text—his mother had fallen at home and he was rushing to catch the express bus to the Bronx. It felt like the worst case scenario we'd planning for, traveling in midday traffic to the Northeast Bronx. She'd apparently taken a fall while City Meals on Wheels was making their daily delivery. When EMS came she refused to go to the hospital. When the social worker tried calling, there was no answer. This went on for 20 minutes until they called Mikey, him being their only child and their emergency contact.

All the alarms were for naught. Halfway into his bus ride, the social worker called to say his mother was okay. She'd gone to the basement of their building right after the incident to finish the laundry. While we prepped ourselves for the worst, she was folding clothing.

There's more to this story, but as I typed the words, I realized it is not mine to tell. This is Mikey's story, and my role is the one I've been playing for the last 16 years. I'm here to be his best friend and confidant. I'm here for him to lean on. To help carry the weight when it becomes unbearable.

To hold him in my arms, stroke his head and say it will be okay.

We will be okay.

My Bronx boy and this here Brooklyn girl, we're made of strong stuff.

Knowing he'd need a big hug on coming home today, I also decided to brighten his evening with that chocolate chess pie I mentioned last time. While it was in the oven, I decided to make some deep chocolate frozen yogurt with toffee bits and a peanut butter ribbon—just in case we need heavy artillery to combat the swirling emotions.

I hate the sound of that damn ice cream maker, but I love him more. Twenty minutes of that headache inducing motor were worth it. The frozen yogurt tastes amazing. An intense chocolate flavor only valrhona cocoa can deliver, studded with milk chocolate covered bits of toffee and swirls of creamy peanut butter. I'll share the recipe soon.

The pizza you see above is for another love in my life—my mom.

As I thought all the worst thoughts before we found out Mikey's mom was fine, I started thinking of my own mom and how we've been trying to get together for weeks now. She's on her way down as I write, and we're going to surprise the girls at school pick up.

I'm surprising her with homemade pizza. I was going to just order a pie tonight, but wanted something more special for the woman who has always been my biggest fan. For her I will turn my oven to 500 degrees on this sultry first day of summer.

And that is why I cook.

The nourishment and cost-saving reality are often an afterthought. It's really about giving a piece of myself to the people I love most in this world.

Continue to get the recipe for grilled pizza.


  • Maria

    Jennie, I am so glad Mikey’s mom is ok. But that can be quite a scare for anyone. I think when that happen, we try to reach out in the best way we know, whether by giving a hug or by cooking in your case, their favorites. I am sure the ice cream and the pizza were both very welcomed.

  • Michelle

    So sweet. you are a strong and wise woman. Enjoy the day. I gave my noisy ice cream maker away. I could not think when it was on….

  • Elizabeth Forney

    I love this post. What great expression of your love through gestures in the kitchen. The surprise pizza for your mom and the surprise pick up at school for the girls are precisely those things that warm their hearts and yours. It makes me full just reading it and thinking of my own mother’s last visit. You have wonderfully expressed the love and joy at seeing and being with one another through sharing moment like a delicious frozen yogurt, or a special someone extra at the end of a school day. Thank you. Looking forward to the pizza post!

  • Kelly

    I love your last sentence!! That is so beautiful!! That should be framed & hung in your kitchen.

  • Kris

    What a day. And you’re so sweet to make something special for everyone. That is love. Hope you all have a relaxing evening. Will definitely stop back for the recipe.

  • Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Sob! Beautiful post, Jennie. Glad all is will. Ironically I received a call from the hospital today saying MY MiL had been admitted to emergency last night. ALthough she is now stable, Danny (my hubby, her son) brought her some chocolate chip cookies anyway.
    I’ve been thinking similar thoughts. Funny how we’re connected that way.

  • Gail

    So glad Mikey’s mother is okay; so sorry for the terrible scare
    My day wasn’t so hot….perhaps you can send over some of that deep chocolate frozen yogurt w/ the peanut butter and the toffee bits?

  • mama's mama

    “I lov u more today than yesterday but not as much as i’ll lov u tomorrow”.What a GREAT afternoon all around!

  • Anneliesz

    I like to say that with my husband, I want to be a soft place for him to land. He is my best friend too and there’s a special alchemy that happens when two people who love each other extend that love to the world around them. My mom just visited us and the visits never seem long enough. Kudos to you for giving a gift of yourself through the food you make to take the edge off hard news, to surprise your girls with your mom. Those times together are priceless and investments to the memory bank.

  • Shira

    My husband’s father passed away this week. Although they had been estranged for many years – the conflicting emotions have him in knots. Baking guinness stout cupcakes as we speak.
    thanks for sharing your story – glad you m-in-law is okay!

  • JulieD

    Jennie, you made me cry with your post. I cook for the same reasons and I have been trying forever to get together with my Mom to cook with her. I so badly want to learn some of her recipes and spend some time with her. Going to call her this week and schedule it & have her over. It was so awesome to meet you at the Wilton Workshop. 🙂

  • merry jennifer

    What a beautiful post, Jennie. I’m glad Mikey’s mom is okay, and I hope he is too. He deserved the ice cream. You both did.
    I think we both cook for the same reasons. And then some.

  • MikeVFMK

    Jennie, I’m so glad everything is ok with Mike’s mom. I know how scary every call can be, especially when our parents age and we’re the only contact. I’m also sure he would love the gesture and ice cream after that call and stress. Happy endings are my favourite endings!

  • Cristie Ritz King

    Yes! I love this. I am not nearly good enough at it to call myself even a “cook” but man do I put my heart into it every time. You captured it perfectly. Now, I will go dream about that pie and frozen yogurt combination. Yum.

  • e

    Very wisely written article, I liked it a lot.
    That’s the essence: cooking for others to give a piece of yourself.
    Sounds “Janis Joplin” like, but it is so true..
    Best wishes to you and your cooking inspirations!