So, the NY Times has had a rash of simple but thought provoking articles that been sprinkled throughout the newspaper in the last few weeks. The first article is an Op-Ed piece by Michael Pollan, who if you haven’t heard of him by now, is the author of several bestsellers most recently In Defense of Food. In Defense of Food actually started out as a 14 page piece in the NY Times Magazine which Pollan discovered the piece required more expansion. Pollan’s new article Big Food vs. Big Insurance is not in an eye-opening piece and would seem that it is obvious that the connection between diet and insurance are inexplicably linked. We know that because it is fact and not because Pollan told us that it was so. We know that when we eat a few times a week out of ‘necessity’ at an establishment that has a drive-thru or grabbing a bag of chips to hold you over until you get home, say, where the choices are supposed to be better — we know that we have been ‘bad’– we know that we have eaten some processed foodstuff that is supposed to resemble and taste like real food. Sometimes it necessary–absolutely necessary lest you pass out from low blood sugar during the afternoon meeting. Lord knows, I have attempted to wait until I get to a place where the options for food or really just coming out of the haze of low blood sugar has almost caused a few accidents but the point is I am making the effort. Pollan suggests that by reforming health care system is essentially small step toward reform the food industry.
Which is true, the initiatives need to be small instrumental steps. Take out the warming kitchens in schools and replace them with spaces to actually cook and with that you bring back the idea or some re-energized reform of Home Ec.
Have we all forgotten Home Ec.? Have we all forgotten the homework assignments of making a cake and the fun that comes from viewing the results the next day or the slightly bleary-eyed parents who spent half the evening after dinner, spending time with their children, making the same recipe 2 or even 3 times? I know, I know we don’t have time for that anymore. We would rather stop by the big healthy grocery store and pick up a salad bar box and warm some pre-made items from the deli then go home cook the homework assignment.
Cook— it seems like a dirty word, a word that implies. . .work. Sure its work, but it is also sensual: smell, taste, texture, it is all there ready and waiting in the form of completed dish or dessert. Most of time it hits you, the senses, right before it is ready boiling its aromatic self throughout the house. Sharing the work that goes into the meal with friends or family is the probably the best form of entertainment whether there’s success at the end or not. Sometimes you may find yourself just going through the motions because actually cooking something, actually cooking, is the final phase– everything done before that reflects in the final outcome although sometimes the last step is the part where it could all go to pieces. Those are exciting moments–don’t believe it ask any enthusiast or professional cook– we all talk about the same thing: adrenaline rush that comes even just getting it all to come out at the same time for example the classic holiday dinner, the turkey, the homemade dressing, the green beans, etc. they all have to come together at precisely the same moment and the reason why it feels like work is because in the beginning of the processes you have to think–think and be organized.
Julia Child said it best: “Noncooks think it’s silly to invest two hours’ work in two minutes’ enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.” Most of us will live to taste that perfect meal again whatever it may be–your palate craves it and physiologically as well as psychology so does your body & brain. Did you know your brain requires cholesterol in order for one thought to pass and connect to the other? You know why we crave what we crave: fat, sugar, & salt? Because we need those three items in some quantity to maintain homeostasis.
So back on track, another article in the NY Times recently “An Organ of Many Talents, at the Roots of Serious Ills”
The organ they speak of is the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for many jobs: hormone regulation, insulin, digestive enzymes and those responsibilities are key to breaking down carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Do you remember that saying you are what you eat? Well there is another quote that while not completely accurate is still beneficial: All disease start in the gut. I know, it is not completely accurate– some diseases are hereditary or genetic and some are habits that have we continue to have regardless of the knowledge from the start like cigarettes.
Most diseases, however the preventable ones at least, are ones that we have a lot of control over and need to manage but not until the point of guilt or even to the point of low blood sugar. Instead of singling out whole food groups, saying that you can’t ever have an item why not moderation? A few tablespoons of bacon fat in a pot of greens isn’t going to kill you and certainly back in the day served 2 purposes: supplying one with even fat to maintain homeostasis and well it tastes good– for flavor. When was the last time someone cooked for flavor? Certainly we eat for flavor but when was the last time we had an array of veggies and fruits that we had no idea what to do with and had to make something up? Guess what you were cooking for flavor– because you know what those items taste like individually but what might they taste like together? Together with some fruit type reduction drizzled over the top? And before you know it you are thinking but using memory, maybe even what is called taste memory, for the last time you tried this or it brings up a similar dish your mother used to make, the list goes on. Fresh fruits and veggies are nothing to be feared and while it may be work and you may be tired as well as famished by the 9:30 pm sit down dinner, it’s going to be good whether it looks good or not it, it will taste better because you made it. from. scratch. Whether you made by yourself, with someone else, or with your family the point is whether or not it has a few tablespoons of bacon fat in it or the fact that you have a million other things to do, you, yes you have crossed over without even realizing it, you now have skill that you are working on–one dish at a time– and it is cooking.