The Cook & The Flame
“The cook dances with the element fire. The cook stirs the cauldron. The cook transforms the parts and turns them into our whole. Blessings on the cook. Praise the cook. May your food be well-cooked”-Susan Weed
There is great debate between raw and cooked foods. Which is best? Which is worse? Why choose when we can have the best of both worlds and for greater benefit. Cooking Alchemy focuses on both what is raw and what is cooked.
There is enough research that shows that raw foods can be of great benefit, no matter which eating plan. Some foods are simple and are best raw, like avocados, sprouts, and figs (a few of my favorites). And it sure does make life a bit easier to make a salad or a smoothie or grab a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, on the go.
An exclusive raw food cleanse may have its place at the right time. It’s also a way to give our digestive system a rest, clear the body and mind. Just as a pot of soup has it’s season and can offer much of the same benefits. The problem with an exclusively raw diet may be that we miss out on minerals that are not made available without the transformative element of FIRE.
Other foods like root vegetables, grains and beans, need fire to soften and break them down. Cooking and to some degree its counterparts (ie: fermenting), is a way to make most plant foods more digestible.Cooking actually increases the absorption and availability of nutrients in a food.
Cooking, as a medium between the world of science, art and spirit, changes what we ingest into a more acceptable form for our bodies to make sense of. Once plant structure, color and texture changes, we know that fire has done its job.
The external heat of fire changes food or firewood into a more compatible vibration for our internal digestive fire, which can change an acidic food to a more alkaline state. Just like that. A good example is the lemon. Acidic in nature, once digested leaves an alkaline ash. Or take apple cider vinegar. It’s also acidic, but not acid yielding. Once ingested, the metabolic result is alkaline. The flame is in a constant state of flux.
Through the right use of fire, cooking penetrates the cells walls(cellulose) of plants. It’s the cellulose from plants that our digestive system cares less about because it can’t break some of it down. If you’ve ever eaten corn kernels, you know what I am talking about. Thankfully, our digestive fluids also play its part by helping us to break down certain plant enzymes. And when it cannot assimilate it, the fire element can. Fire, whether dry or moist, high or low heat, relieves the digestive system, taxing the body less. The more absorbable the food is, the less we use our own enzymes to digest it. Between the energies of plant, elements, and our body systems, there is an inherent awareness at play, even if we are unaware of it.
Then there is also this notion that cooking destroys food. That nutrients and enzymes are killed in the process. Not the whole truth. Like the energy that it is and offers us, what we cook, can never really be destroyed, only transformed.
Of course, there is always a shadow side to eating cooked foods. And in this case the downfall is overcooking. It not only lessens the vitality and value of a food, it may also add harmful compounds to the mix. It’s definitely not the result many of us are looking for. While finding our own middle ground between raw and cooked is a personal journey, techniques can help fuel the fire. Here are a few:
Braising: slow moisture heat, which breaks down cellulose and stretches starches. A great method for cooking root vegetables.
Boiling: Moist, high heat. Pastas, rice, beans. Retain liquid for no nutrition loss
Steaming: Moist, high heat. Cuts down cooking time. Most vegetables can be steamed.
Roasting/Baking: Dry heat, slow cooking, moderately hands-off. Think casseroles, root vegetables.
Saute: high dry heat, less fat used for cooking, ideal for small cut vegetables.
Stewing: Moist heat, slowly simmer. Great for vegetables, beans and grains.
Poaching: moist low heat. Great way to cook fruits.
Grilling: less time-consuming and less fat used.
Stir-fry: Dry high heat, less time
Pan-fry: low heat, large cuts of foods, more time
Shallow fry: high heat, not completely submerged in fat/oil.
Deep fry: high heat, completed submerged in fat/oil, the medium for heat. If you must, go with coconut oil, which can withstand high heat without creating toxins.
Fire, is the element of change, of passion, of drive, of creativity. Cooking relies on this fire, one of our greatest feats, to light the way. Fire is one of the highest expressions of light. Cooking aligns us with it. Join the dance.