I started out liking cooking because I was cheap and loved to eat. That's still true, of course, but as I have developed a greater range of decent technique I have discovered that this makes cooking infinitely more fun.
I love being able to cook something by a combination of inference and knowhow. I love knowing that my classic sabayon sauces -- hollandaise, bearnaise, etc. -- will come out without my looking at a recipe because I just know how to do it. I get a kick out of turning my back on something blazing hot in a saute pan because I know what's going on and don't need to focus on it all the time. I love deciding I'll invent something because there's no recipe available to me, but knowing also that it's all perfectly classic and even ancient -- like the poultry offal neck sausages I made recently (see thread "Duck Brains and Other Nasties"). Being basically cheap and in some respects lazy, I also get a huge kick out of deciding that I don't feel like going to the market just because there isn't anything in the fridge, and nevertheless putting a generous meal on the table by cobbling together scraps and bits.
Things like charcuterie are my current Holy Grail, where I can take stuff others throw away and turn it into a delicacy. That's cool to me. All that "nose to tail" stuff -- I'm delighted that it's good stewardship and all that, but frankly I just think it's kind of fun to buy a bunch of pig ears for next to nothing and try to work out what the heck to do with them, you know?
"Cook happy" and "cook with love" -- I understand and respect those feelings, but they don't do it for me, honestly. I mean, nobody wants to be angry or unhappy, when cooking or otherwise, but I don't want my food manipulated by mood. I want my mood to be made by my technique with the food. Example: my kids adore sliced cucumbers, the thinner the better, and they don't like the peel. Over the last month, I've taken up preparing this with an usuba, an impressively irritating Japanese professional chef's vegetable knife, which doesn't handle like any other knife in the world. I cross-cut sections (tricky with this knife -- it tends to split), then peel the sections the way you've probably seen sushi guys peel daikon (katsura-muki), then I cut slices parallel to the board under one finger with a cross-slash motion. This stuff isn't so simple to do, it's dangerous (that knife is literally razor-sharp), and with my level of skill it would take less time to use a vegetable peeler and a chef's knife. I do it this way because every cut is fun for me. So my struggles with technique make it fun, even when I get it wrong and get mad at myself. And you know what? Nobody, but nobody, gives a flying *** whether I do it this way or with another knife -- just me. Nevertheless, every time I work with this knife, even sharpening it, I envision a time when I'll be able to do all these things really fast and smooth, just because to me that's a seriously cool thing to be able to do.
My ultimate goal, I suppose, is that if I've had an amazingly horrible day, I will know that (a) my food will be really excellent anyway, and (b) the process of making that food very rapidly and precisely will be the one thing that does go right that day -- and I will know that it will be so in advance. Is that weird? I dunno -- it works for me.