Last night we had a late dinner. My wife and I each thought the other was going to cook. It was well past six o’clock, she wasn’t home and I was famished. The chicken thighs weren’t going to cook themselves, so I rolled up my sleeves and decided to make a quick chicken potpie.
I was really, really hungry when I started, yet later as I sautéed the onions and chicken, I realized this hunger was gone. When I poured some wine into the pan to dissolve the fond, I understood I was enjoying cooking the food as if I was eating it. I was literally inhaling my dinner. Later, when my wife came home and we sat down, I ate at a liesurely pace and sipped a nice red zin.
Perhaps cooking is a kind of eating. The perfumes of bubbly sauce and toasty phyllo crust were already consumed by the time I took my chair. And thus my theory from the stove: cooking IS eating. And the corollary: eating packaged or ‘fast’ food eliminates this ‘pre-eating’ and you consume MORE food. We all know that McDonalds makes you fat, but if you cooked your own burgers, you would eat less. By having fast food hot and ready, you pounce. And this goes for at-home ‘heat-and-serve.’ I can tell you from personal experience I eat less of my homemade grilled pizza than I do a Dijourno’s frozen pizza. I can wolf down one of those cheesy torture wheels in ten minutes.
Ever hear of Jamie Oliver, the British cook? I was thumbing through his cookbook, Jamie’s Food Revolution, this past week. Oliver says
“We have a modern-day war on our hands now, and it’s over the epidemic of bad health and the rise of obesity. The question is, do we wait until it’s too late, or do we do something about it now? […] we all need to know how to cook simple, nutritious, economical, tasty and hearty food. And once we have this knowledge, we should pass it on through friends, family and the workplace to keep that cycle of knowledge alive”
Of course, Oliver wants us to pass on his recipes, hoping people buy more of his book, but I see his point. We’re getting fatter for many reasons: readily available, high-calorie food; low levels of physical activity; and malignant ‘fake food’ ingredients. But we’ve also lost the art of good cooking.
Did anyone ever teach you to cook? If no, would you be willing to learn? You might want to start with Oliver’s book. It’s got wonderful, simple recipes of the things your grandma may have made: salads, Sunday roasts, vegetables, easy desserts and soups.
Bon appétit mes amis!
(Enjoy your meal, my friends!)