I recently watched a show called Cooked that resonated with me. Starring Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the show highlights the history, culture, chemistry, health benefits, and overall importance of cooking. I started developing an interest in cooking in 2004, and have since nurtured that interest into my current day passion. Like building any other proficiency, over the many hours that I have invested in this activity, I have gotten better at it, which increases my enjoyment of the skill. But cooking does more than satisfy my desire to feel capable at an every-day task. So lately I have been reflecting on why I love cooking so much. Cooked helped me solidify some of my musings, which I thought I would share here.
Being a mental health practitioner, I tend to focus on the importance of culture. When I think about how cooking has developed over time, it expands my experience of cooking from one that exists only today, in this moment, but also frames the activity in a historical context. I feel connected to my human roots as I muse about how we started by cooking meat over fire, and developed our skills over many generations to include the wide array of strategies that we use today. I experience gratitude toward my ancestors for their ingenuity.
At the same time, Cooked did a great job of highlighting some of the cultural problems we experience with food today. Access to healthy, natural foods has become restricted for the many of the world’s poorest citizens, which has problematic impacts on their health and wellbeing. In addition to its criticism of the role of capitalism in the rise of processed foods, the show also recognizes that sometimes our human drive toward efficiency can influence us to sacrifice methods of survival that have worked well throughout much of human history. Thinking about how we, as a species, can balance progress and time-tested evidence rings as inherently important to me.
Personally, I connected most with the show’s message about how important cooking is to the individual doing it. My reflections on my love of cooking lead me to realize that cooking is meditative for me. Focusing on a repetitive task (for example, chopping) allows me to forget for a while whatever else might be bothering me. Cooking is also my art form. I take many basic elements and I bring them together in a specific way to create something that is beautiful and tasty, something better than the sum of its parts. But most importantly, there is something inherently human about the process of feeding people I care about a nutritious, delicious meal, which literally aids in their survival. I guess when I really think about it, for me, cooking is a way of expressing love.