Thursday, April 10, 2014

The beauty of cooking

I'm trying to change my attitude towards cooking. This is what it looks like right now:

But I don't wanna pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees!

And this is what I want it to look like:

This little snack? Oh, it was just something to whip up while I was working on my doctoral thesis. 

Basically I detest and resent having to feed myself. Unless it involves simply pouring cereal into a bowl and adding milk, or dumping the contents of a can into a pot to heat up on the stove, I am loath to spend any amount of time chopping, pealing, braising, heating, baking, broiling, etc. just so I can not feel hungry for a few hours. The whole thing stinks, if you ask me. If I've ever tried to make a meal that involves more than microwaving something, it's most often ended up looking and tasting like cat food or worse. Hating something means avoiding it, which means not getting any good at it, which means it will always be scary and awful. Kind of like the way I can't do math. 

Which is not to say I don't enjoy food. Quite the opposite, actually. When I've been served any kind of homemade food, especially by a friend or family member who genuinely enjoyed the cooking process and fed me something nutritious and delicious, I have at times been close to tears in gratitude. I friggin' love food. I LOVE it. I think maybe it releases more endorphins in my brain than the average person. I get a food high sometimes. Do you ever get a food high? It's the opposite of a food coma, where instead of feeling like you're too groggy to do anything, you're so pumped you're ready to become the next American president, even if you're not American. Like when you finish lunch and suddenly realize you could easily get into medical school. Like people's jokes are funnier, the sun is shining brighter, and the world is a really great place. Maybe this is a sign of blood sugar problems... whatever the case, though, food makes me very, very happy.

But I hate cooking.

And I want to re-think my attitude. I want to learn how to cook properly, and learn to enjoy the process. I think going vegetarian has been a huge step for me towards being competent in the kitchen, simply because I've had to become more aware about what I've been eating in the last 10 days. (Not that I've done much more to feed myself than heat up a friend's leftover vegan chili, but at least I'm thinking about what I'm eating and why.)

Here are five (totally unresearched) reasons every adult should learn not just to how to cook, but how to cook well.

1. Cooking will make you popular. Who doesn't love being invited to a friend's for a dinner party? And unless you're under 21, ordering pizza and putting BYOB on the Facebook invite doesn't count. It's got to be something you actually made yourself with real ingredients you had to pick up at the grocery store or (for bonus points) the local famers' market. 

2. Cooking will make you sexy.
He knows it.

3. Cooking will make you healthier. It will force you to learn at least a little bit about nutrition, which will force you to become at least a little bit more mindful about what you're choosing to build your cells out of. The expression "you are what you eat" is literal. The stuff you put into yourself literally gets used to keep creating new "you" cells as the old ones die off. Mind blowing. Literally. 

4. Cooking will make you wealthier. It's probably common knowledge, but buying your own groceries to make your own meals costs less than eating out and paying someone else to cook for you.*

5. Cooking will take back the power from the food industry and put it back into your hands to shape your own life. Michael Pollan is a food journalist who wrote some really profound but entertaining books about food and why we eat it and where our food comes from. Here he talks about how we've been brainwashed by the food industry to think we're losers if we have time in our day to spend in the kitchen making dinner. According to his research, Pollan suggests home cooking has been in "freefall" since the 1960s when fast-food took over in North America, and here he tells us why we should stop watching all those TV shows about cooking and get ourselves into the kitchen to do it ourselves. (Maybe something to watch/listen to this while making your next meal?)

If you can't or don't want to watch the video (it's 20 min. long), here's the basic message: if you want to make a profound change in your diet, in your health, in your life overall, eat anything you want, just cook it yourself. 

Definitely some food for thought. 

*It's true, some fast-food might actually be cheaper than the groceries would be to make the equivalent meal, but the health benefits of making something in your own kitchen inevitably outweigh buying take-out (made with who knows what additives, preservatives, etc.) no matter how cheap and/or convenient it might be. 

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