IT’S THE PROCESS OF SCRAWLING ingredients on a shopping list, buying them, unpacking them, staging them, using them. It’s the quiet alchemy of watching those ingredients transform into something delicious and nourishing. It’s the adrenaline rush of following a new recipe. (It’s also the guided meditation of following a familiar recipe.) It’s the self-esteem that comes from self-reliance. It’s the slow accumulation of skills with knife, skillet, slow cooker and baking dish. It’s flashing back on Michael Pollan’s Cooked and making meal-preparation a political act. It’s the delicious and home-filling smells, and the quiet but ear-filling sounds. It’s the saving (and using) of leftovers. It’s the creative flash that leads to a new dish. It’s setting up my mise en place. It’s listening to music while puttering about the kitchen. It’s the new-worlds-ahoy experience of exploring an as-yet unfamiliar cuisine. It’s the heady anticipation of the first bite. It’s the precision of ingredients that goes into baking. It’s the let’s-see-what-happens of giving a dish one’s personal flair. (It’s also the license that goes with “season to taste” or “substitute this for that.”) It’s waiting for the water to boil, or skillet or oven to heat. It’s the rhythmic reverie of chopping or stirring. And it’s a great way to pass the time before dinner.