I have no formal training in food preparation™
That might not result in droves of students beating a path to my door, but it is my point. Anyone can learn to cook.
The majority of us now leave our food preparation to someone else. We outsource our cooking to corporations when we eat at chain restaurants, buy frozen entrées at the supermarket or sign our kids up for unhealthy school lunches. I realize that some people have no choice but to eat food-like products rather than real food. In a short blog post, I can’t cover the complicated issue of our inability to feed ourselves. For more on how we arrived at this bizarre point in human history, I suggest reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, both by Michael Pollan (or anything else he has written), The Third Plate by Dan Barber and Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss. (This is just a short list off the top of my head).
The preparation of food appears best left to professionals for many reasons, such as:
- Celebrity Chefs. We love celebrity here in the US and this cult extends to chefs. At least the Mario Batalis and Anthony Bourdains of the world possess actual skills, unlike other celebrities on whom we heap praise for no apparent reason other than their ability to procure expensive butt implants. But you don’t need to have attended the CIA or interned at The French Laundry to know your way around a kitchen. If you don’t know how to cook, start with something like a salad made with vegetables on hand and tossed with olive oil and vinegar. Throw in some protein and voila—a light dinner.
Cooking Shows. Some of these shows convey a “Do not Try This at Home!” message. The problem is, many viewers have heeded the warning! You don’t need ninja-like cooking skills, a gigantic kitchen outfitted with the latest celebrity-chef-branded gadgets “now available exclusively at [name of retailer]” or exotic ingredients to cook a great meal. My kitchen is tiny, I use basic tools and I eat a very simple, plant-rich, delicious diet of whole foods. I have never been healthier.
- Food Porn. I appreciate publications such as the magazine Cooked Illustrated and the book The Art of Fermentation for the drawings as much as for the writing. When I see stylized photos of an impossible-to-recreate dish accompanying even a fairly simple recipe, I tend to throw my hands up in the air and skip it. I feel like a young girl bombarded with idealized images of beauty. Who can live up to that? Don’t buy into it! Drop out! Maybe this also explains why I love reading food blogs. They inspire me. I look at most posts and think, “I can make that!” I read recently that food porn is on its way out. I hope so.
Until the day corporations privatize air—and complete their privatization of our water—food remains our first and foremost need for which we can take back control.
Occasionally I’ll hear some flak when I urge people to cook. I have a retort for that, which could also double as a tagline: “You need to cook only if you eat.” But I think I’ll go with a line I’ve written in previous posts: