Why Cooking? An Essay

    So why food? Why is food suddenly cool these days? Why is cooking a craze? How come people talk about last night’s meal like they once talked about last night’s sexual conquests? Why can’t I eat in public without seeing someone take pictures of their food? How come the word, “porn” can now refer to something that goes in your body instead of something you want on your body? Why is every at-home and passer by TV-holic jumping on every reality show that seeps out of network television like a fat kid on… well food?

We asked for a booth because they have better lighting.

We asked for a booth because they have better lighting.

      There was a time (after the invention of television) without cooking shows, without online recipe guides and without this ubiquitous inclination to cook; A time when telling someone you cooked for a living was met with, “Man, that sucks” as opposed to, “Wow, you’re a chef!?” So what happened? The simplest answer I can conjure is arguably the same answer to every question ever asked: Time. Just like traditions, holidays, religions and obesity, this just sort of happened gradually. It’s a love/hate thing for me I’ll move more into in another entry, but for this topic I’m glad because it has people paying a bit more attention to what they’re eating.

One thing I don’t like, however,  is that this food culture we’ve spawned has coaxed many a diner to leave the handling of their food often entirely up to someone else: the professionals who make a living (and sometimes life) out of tinkering, perfecting and innovating. This sort of passion brought molecular gastronomy wizard, Ferran Adria, to the top of his game making breathtakingly innovative creations. But as for at-home? Not all of us have a tank of nitrous oxide hangin’ out under the sink. Those guys have a serious hard-on for foam. Plus, I don’t always want a paid professional to have to explain the intricacies of my meal.

Seriously, wtf IS that?

Seriously, wtf IS that?

     I’ll say over and over, cooking should be a personal thing and should, at least some of the time, be done by YOU, the diner. So why should you bother cooking? Why do it yourself? Welp, here’s why:

it’s better for you

     Eating out is delicious and decadent. Your eyes and palette may enjoy it but how about your liver? Your arteries? Eating out regularly is like constantly driving your car with a cinder block on the accelerator. It’s made to handle it but won’t last as long. Foods restaurants serve you come with too much fat, too much starch, not enough balance and in too big portions. I know. I work for ’em. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of this once in a while but doing it all the time takes a toll.

     Cooking for yourself lets you control how much you eat and the quality of the ingredients. Not to say all restaurants serve crap. They don’t. But if you’re doing it yourself you know exactly what’s going into your meal, how it was handled and where it came from. Find yourself a good grocer while you’re at it.

it’s cheaper

     This is more-or-less common knowledge and really explains itself, but I had to bring it up. Restaurants usually do about a 300% mark-up on their food to cover the cost of the food, pay their cooks (usually not well) AND turn a profit. You’re often paying way too much for what you order even if it seems reasonable. And think about it. How often do you actually eat the leftovers? Not the best example of bang for your buck. Again, I’m not saying stop eating out altogether. If you did, I’d be out of a job.

Not to mention your girlfriend would look like this

Not to mention your girlfriend would look like this

it’s a basic life skill

     Somehow, in the continuum of adulthood I know people who cannot cook. I mean anything. They cannot prepare something edible for themselves. Shit hits the fan? They’re dead. Sure one might not equate cooking to bow hunting, fire building or underwater basket weaving, but if the people who are post-apocalyptic sharpshooters are fending off hoards of zombies in exchange for your raw-meat-to-edible-grub conversion know how, you’ll be glad you learned. Plus being able to break down and butcher fish, pigs and other dead things is a very usable skill. And food tastes better after you’ve had to work for it. You can taste the EARNING.

Case in point: I once used old meat market know how to clean a bunch of fish in exchange for a few camping supplies.

Case in point: I once used old meat market know how to clean a bunch of fish in exchange for a few camping supplies.

It makes people think you are cool

     This is absolutely superficial and silly, but it’s also true. With a tiny bit of at-home kitchen flair you’ll have people fawning over you one way or another in no time (or if they know any better, thinking you’re an enormous tool). Cooking, being a skill and therefore potential talent, can be a powerful tool in one’s arsenal of charm to better accommodate guests, wow colleagues or impress a date. It’s just useful.

     Anything you cook doesn’t have to be the best thing you’ve ever eaten. It doesn’t have to be the best looking either. I’m not saying you’ll be an overnight success and if you already cook I am definitely not urging you to rise to chef stardom, but I hope I’ve piqued your interest in making your own food. And if you cook already I hope I’ve strengthened your resolve when you have a kitchen full of stuff but an appetite for lethargy. For starters see what you can do this pretty easy recipe and even if you do eat someone else’s pre-packed food, humor me. Add salt to taste.

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3 responses to “Why Cooking? An Essay

  1. Nice post! I especially like the point:

    IT’S A BASIC LIFE SKILL

    I feel like more and more, people are relying on service professionals for basic stuff. Fewer people are doing their own home repairs, auto maintenance, computer troubleshooting, etc.

    I’m just as guilty on lots of those things. I pay a guy to change my tires and oil. I am getting better at some stuff, though. I can fix a toilet and unclog a sink in ten minutes flat. I changed out all the serviceable parts from my whole house humidifier.

    But still, I can easily see an era where we are as afraid to cook our own steaks as we are to fix our own cars. Granted, cars and electronics are getting more complicated–but steaks aren’t.

  2. Bravo!

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