I would have loved to write more about healing foods and share beautiful captures of delicious food, but, there is sense of priority to talk about the actual art of cooking.
The month is almost over, but not without a lot of sprouting and synchronicities, especially when it comes to Cooking. Along with Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked, Mark Bittman and Bee Wilson, both offered their take on Cooked, in the New York Times, and Dr. Hyman gave us FED UP: Why We Must Cook Our Way to Health.
Most of us know how important cooking is, how it can save our lives and how not cooking has hurt us in more ways than one. But it has not yet changed the fact that “7% percent of Americans say they never cook and 30% say they cook three or four times a week”(Mark Brittman). And the percentage of Americans who rely on others to cook for them, be it personal or restaurant chefs, food corporations, and technology, I would guess outweighs all the rest.
There is no doubt that the politics of food is a driving force behind our state of health as nation and that we have been mislead. Dr. Hyman describes it best as a threat, “the threat is food terrorism—the wholesale hijacking of our health, our palates, our brain chemistry, our kitchens, homes, and wallets by Big Food”. With a moderate level of optimism, we may be on our way out of the darkness. Cooking may very well free us from own ignorance, fear and conditioning. An exercise in free-will can give us a jump start.
Pollan describes cooking as a “democratic pleasure”, “daily creativity”, as “economic”, “healthy” and a “link to the natural world”. He also says that “though it may take time, cooking can be about patience and letting things happen(2013). Cooking is all of these things and more. Cooking is Alchemy.
Cooking is about feeling and using sensory perception to change base metal(ingredients) to gold (real food). It’s about feeling, transmuting, and a finding that fine balance between science and spirit. Breaking the limitations of the mind can help in redefining what cooking is. Freestyle cooking (no cookbooks or recipes) and foodcycling(no waste, recycle what you already have) are great ways to help develop intuition and deepen sensibility.
There is a kind of magic that happens in the kitchen, and it relies on more than ingredients. One of the most sacred aspects of cooking is the chance to be present, absorbed in the process, whatever it entails. It is a way to freedom, a “no-where, now-here” concept, Wayne Dyer talked about in Freedom to Higher Awareness. It’s a level of consciousness that helps the cook/alchemist to appreciate each moment as a unique opportunity to get in tune with the spirit of self and nature. Each time we step in the kitchen domain can be an entirely new experience from which to learn about our selves and our giving planet.
Cooking can be about letting go. Not of our power over our health, but letting go of preconceived notions about what cooking is. By not critically analyzing ingredients, over-thinking processes, and moving ourselves beyond scientific terms, we can come to a place of reconciliation. That’s how it was done before the information age. Letting go of our thinking minds, is a key ingredient in unleashing the inner cook. Trusting our senses is really an act of courage.
No one said it better than Einstein when he said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” The servant has distracted and imprisoned us long enough in our ignorance and surrender to others we feel know more about what to eat than our own knowing. Nature provides us “gifts” to create delicious healthy meals with and the benefits of good health that come from it. We may need a kind of reversal that will allow cooking to be the intuitive process it always has been.
The good thing is mental and formal training is not necessarily a prerequisite for good cooking and good food. In fact, James Beard simply put it as, “the secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it”. There has to be a love not only for the craft and the process, but a deeper connection to nature and plants. Cooking as a way of life, has been undervalued, particularly here in America. And it’s about time it has become more of a preoccupation.
Pollan said “the cook stands squarely between nature and culture, conducting a process of translation and negotiation”(2013). The cook does this and more. As part of the greater flow, the cook is the medium, the alchemist. It is our connection and exchange with plants and nature that ensures our health.“The truth is that plants and herbs, and even the food we eat, are much more than just bundles of chemicals. Living things contain a signature of their Creator, and if you are willing to know plants and herbs, they will reveal their inner spirit to you. This innate intelligence is the source of the healing powers of plants and herbs”(Dennis Hauck). Nature, of course, also includes the elements that make cooking possible: fire, air, water , cosmic influences as well as the earth.
Cooking is a language that requires more than the sum of parts, tenses, and fluid tongue. It requires a stillness, openness and connectivity. Cooking is indeed a way to live in harmony with nature. And being in tune with nature can help you unleash your inner cook!