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Since I’ve been home for quarantine, I’ve been cooking a lot. Usually around 5pm I’ve already burned out my other activities (working on my internship, reading, calling friends) so I’m itching to do something. My parents appreciate it, so it’s a nice way to make up for the years they had to cook every meal for me.

Cooking is social, so it fulfills part of my extroverted needs that go with less during quarantine. My family members are in and out of the kitchen, especially when it gets close to being done. It can be an all day affair. Sometimes, I have to marinade the chicken for hours or let the dough rise. There’s something domestic about it, too, working on a project and then reaping its tangible output.

The greatest emotion of cooking is the pride. The food I’ve made – homemade gnocchi, chepa vepudu, chicken tinga tostadas – I swear is some of the greatest food I’ve eaten.

I’m suspicious that my family doesn’t love my food as much as I do. It’s like I can taste the effort I put into it. The time and effort that go into the cooking create a variety of flavors no one else can taste. Suddenly I am vigorously photographing my not-so-well-plated dish. I want everyone to see it. And moreso I want my whole family to eat it and love it with me.

Cooking has all the factors of motivation: meaning, through all the teamwork and effort; ownership, knowing that I made dinner; identity, revisited by using my great great grandma’s pasta recipe; pride, carried in the form of onion-cutting battle wounds; challenge, wondering how I am going to make sure the onions don’t burn while I’m flipping the potatoes in the oven; and payment, in the form of eating. 

All of the effort and payoff of cooking happen in such a short amount of time. How can I translate these characteristics to my work at DukeEngage?  The output happens over long periods of time. In fact, I don’t think I’ll be involved in this program by the time my work starts to pay off.  Despite this, I do believe these motivations exist. Only, they’re in a lot less tangible ways than baking a cake.