At a certain point in the late middle of my life I made the unexpected but happy discovery that the answer to several of the questions that most occupied me was in fact one and the same.
-Michael Pollan, Cooked
Kayli and I have been reading Cooked together over the last few months (aloud to eachother … is that weird?). The above excerpt is how the book begins. Pollan goes on to explain that many important facets of our lives – our health, family life, sustainability, self-sufficiency, and more – all depend significantly on whether or not we choose to prepare our own meals.
We, as a society, are cooking a lot less these days. Our modern food industry is more than willing to satisfy our growing desire for quick and easy meals – no cooking required. We’re free to work an extra hour or two at the office or taxi the kids to soccer practice, leaving the farming, processing, and cooking to the corporations. Economically speaking, this division of labor is by far the most time efficient – we specialize in the work we do in our “day jobs” and the rest is left to other specialists.
As Pollan writes, this specialization is useful but it’s catching up with us. We’re losing our connection, and therefore sense of responsibility, between our everyday choices and their consequences. We may save time by not cooking, but we also take a leap of faith by assuming each step from farm to table is taken with our best interests in mind (spoiler alert: this is an unsafe assumption). Pollan offers the kitchen as the place to take back control and correct our course.
Handling these plants
and animals, taking back the production and the preparation of even just some part of our food, has the salutary effect of making visible again many of the lines of connection that the supermarket and the “home meal replacement” have succeeded in obscuring, yet of course never actually eliminated. To do so is to take back a measure of responsibility, too, to become, at the very least, a little less glib in one’s pronouncements.
Especially one’s pronouncements about the environment, which suddenly begins to seem a little less “out there” and a lot closer to home. For what is the environmental crisis if not a crisis of the way we live? The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless everyday choices…
As soon as you start down this path of thinking, the quotidian space of the kitchen appears in a startling new light. It begins to matter more than we ever imagined.
Indeed. Sometimes I need some cooking motivation, and Cooked provides just that. Today I whipped up three recipes (salad for this week’s lunches, veggie burgers, and an aioli to top the salad as a dressing or the burgers as a sauce). I can’t wait to share. Let’s start with this aioli…
- ¾ cup raw cashews
- ¾ cup water
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves (loosely packed)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
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