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A recent academic study argues that home cooking is a healthy lifestyle choice, adding longevity to older people who cooked five or more times per week.

No matter the statistics — or conjecture that the recession has spurred a rise in cooking at home — the simple truth is that many of us just love the activity and reward of preparing our own food. There's a difference between making breakfast just to get out of the door on time for work and taking time to select a desired recipe, shop mindfully for its ingredients, and execute its vision for a special meal.

Why is kitchenware on wedding registries? Why do cooking shows and those brutal reality TV competitions with secret ingredients and screaming chefs garner good ratings? How has Joy of Cooking sold more than 18 million copies?

Because, even though many of those wedding gifts sit idle, buried in drawers or tucked behind microwaves, the kitchen matters. Always has, always will.

Something that has been personally rewarding over seven years of organizing our annual Dish guide with local chefs and restaurateurs is compiling great recipes that might inspire readers to spend a little more time in their kitchens than they otherwise may have.

It's a chance for us to not only pay homage to local culinary talent, but to compel you to raid your cupboards and wreck your clean counter tops. We're enablers, plain and simple. We may not save you money or prolong your life, but dammit, we will brighten one of your meals this season.

— Matthew Schniper

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