I love to cook. I've been cooking since I was in junior high or high school. My mom went back to work when both my brother and I were in school, and she worked the 3-11 shift at the hospital, so it was up to me to make dinner for my dad and brother.
It was pretty simple. If dinner wasn't leftovers, my mom would leave me the basics and some instructions. Often, it would be a pound of ground beef, with instructions to make some sort of casserole. My mom had a spice rack that had an "Herbs and Spices and How to Use Them" instruction picture on the front. I would go down the list and find all the spices that were often used in beef, and add them to the casserole. If dinner was pork chops, I'd do the same for pork. You get the idea.
I'm pretty sure that my dad developed an iron stomach, because he ALWAYS ate whatever I made. God bless him.
I attribute my love of cooking to that period and my family's willingness to be a part of my creativity. I'll try pretty much anything, and have the most fun using recipes as a guideline, rather than a strict formula.
Baking is totally different. Other than the occasional cookie recipe or my Grandma's Finnish Pulla, I never really enjoyed baking. Preciseness is an absolute necessity, and I was never too concerned with the difference between a level cup or "about a cup" of flour. I was more of the "Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade" school of baking than the "from scratch" school.
Someone once likened baking to a scientific formula. If you don't have the ingredients exactly right (like baking soda instead of baking powder), or the measurements are slightly off (like a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon), or your oven temperature runs hot (who knew 350 could be different on two different ovens?), the end result is not quite what you expected. Sort of like 13 and 15 adding up to 28.5. Ever so slightly off, but not what you expected.
Lately, though, I've discovered how cool it can be to follow a recipe exactly and end up with a beautiful loaf of bread or "from scratch" cake. We're not talking anything too fancy here, though. Basic white cake recipe with a chocolate buttercream frosting. Ciabatta bread. You get the idea.
But I have learned that even if you have the exact ingredients in precise measurements with a perfectly heated oven, if your baking powder is expired? Your anticipated beautiful white sheet cake? Will measure about 1" tall.