On cooking

The meaning of life is life itself.

Bob Geldof

Anything we do to strengthen and invigorate life on the planet and in ourselves is meaningful. I think that cooking is one of the most meaningful practices we can spend our time doing.

When we cook, we transform almost inedible ingredients into delicious meals. We turn eye-watering, smelly raw onions into glazed pleasure. We turn poisonous potatoes into irresistible crispy wedges. Disease inducing raw wheat is transformed into steaming loaves of life giving bread. A bread that turns into our own flesh. A true wonder of life. A magical revelation on par with anything done by the prophets.

When we cook healthy food for ourselves and our loved ones, we help life to flourish. We build our bodies with food, molecule by molecule. We strenghten our minds, story by story. We reinforce our community, the communion with everything else that lives on the planet.

Of course we need to grow our ingredients in sustainable ways, but that is only the beginning. The peak experience is in sharing a dish with family and friends, so that the food can turn into life, in our bodies.

Science helps us understand the complex interactions between food, health, ecology and the future. EAT Lancet has collected the best available knowledge and their conclusions match the old adages of the past. We should eat lots of vegetables, with as much variation as possible. Rarely, if ever, meat. Light on the dairy, avoid most sugars. Grandmother style cooking. How did she know?

Two of my favorite researchers on food and health, Gerben Hulsegge and Remco Kuipers, both conclude that the North European public health was on the peak around 1985, when McDonald fast food arrived together with the Unilever microwave meals and deep freeze “pizza”. When soft drinks entered the daily life. The poorest 50% has had a dramatic drop in health in the last decades, while the richest 10% is gaining health benefits from smoking less. We are a lot richer, but on the whole a lot less healthy. And that was before the covid pandemic hit. Now, in the middle of the mess, the difference is even more pronounced.

But we don’t only eat to be healthy, we also eat for pleasure. And with the right spices and love, even lentils can be carefully cooked into sweet and steaming daal sauce, to cover a bowl of brown rice. Low cost culinary delight.

To complete the cycle of life, I prefer to deposit my nutrients in our compost toilet, to begin the return of the riches to the soil. Ashes to ashes. Life to life.

Cooking chestnut flour pancakes. Yum.

Which dish brings life to you? What do you enjoy cooking?