Someone once told me: “I don’t get the big deal about cooking. You just put stuff together; that’s all there is to it,” and continued to express how simple and straightforward cooking is.
I bet you scoffed dismissively at that person, didn’t you?
Well you shouldn’t.
There is a valid reason behind that impression. You see, cooking serves a purpose, namely the preparation of food. Stating the obvious, aren’t I? Bear with me.
Food is fundamentally for nourishment. We eat so that we don’t die. In that sense, ‘putting stuff together’ is a very advanced practice for someone who can devour raw foods, stay hydrated, and still be alive.
That is the most objective evaluation of the importance of food and its preparation that I can think of. But beyond the dull physiological imperative, it’s a spectrum of subjective thought with no hard borderlines, a colorful spectrum nonetheless.
Same as with music, literature, sculpture or any other art form, different people will have different tastes, and will enjoy them to different levels of sophistication. Some like pop music, some dive into the complex worlds of jazz and classical music.
Since cooking is essentially tasting if done right (in the sense that you are comparing results to predefined expectations), people will have different expectations for what they taste. Some are complex and multilayered, and some are simple. That’s why cooking can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.
I had the chance once to visit the Louvre on a free day in Paris, and felt the need for no more than 90 minutes to tour the museum that exhibits what is probably the biggest and most valuable collection of artwork and artifacts on the planet – which I admittedly did, and in that respect I am as crude as one can get.
When it comes to food though, I can sometimes spend many hours contemplating a dish, or even days with lots of research if I decide to cook it myself. I once spent two weeks and several chickens researching the best ingredients and techniques for the perfect fried chicken. That’s about two or three Louvre visits per drumstick!
Culture is what defines our sensibilities, and shapes us as people. And food is as important a part of any culture as is language and legend.
If you don’t care for cooking and food, then you have every right not to. If you appreciate, or contribute to other aspects of your culture, then more power to you.
If you dream of aromas, envision flavors, and cherish the vivid memory of that sensual dish you had long ago, in a far away place, then you’ve come to the right place.