Monday, January 21, 2008

The Absurdity of Cooking

I started this blog to explore what it means to cook. Whats the purpose? I have always wondered about the first cook. Between some 1.9 million and 790,000 years ago one of our ancestors dropped a piece of meat into a fire he/she had going and tried it. Was it an accident? Did she reason to herself that it would be a good idea? I don't know. I do know that it was a significant step forward for us as a species. So I guess in one way our survival as a race gives meaning to cooking but because I cook for a living I find that pure survival is not enough for me. It is this divorce between what I feel inside, that is I want to believe I cook with meaning or purpose, and what reality tells me, that in all actuality the only thing cooking truly does is give us an evolutionary advantage. I guess if truth be told my profession is unnecessary. In the end it doesn't matter if that fish I cook tonight is perfectly cooked or not. So why cook? And by cooking I mean more than applying heat to food. So why? A plate is taken to a guest sitting at a table. It has been lovingly prepared and plated. As the waiter sits it down on the table the guest will often comment it looks to good to eat. But that's not the point. The point is to eat it. If the plate just sits there and is never eaten then it was prepared in vain. But at the same time does it really matter if the food is well prepared? Yes, I have to say it matters. The purpose of the dish was to be eaten and I think the act of eating is where meaning is found. Not only eating but enjoying what we eat. The pleasure found in well prepared food gives the food meaning. Doesn't it? Ultimately, in the end, beautiful food with beautiful taste means no more than meat thrown on an open fire and burnt to a crisp. They both give us fuel and allow us to exist another day. But I just have to wonder if it isn't the cooks in the world who help us defiantly wave our forks in the air and damn evolution with it's impersonal march onward demanding that though we are no more than fancy animals we are animals who will find more to life than just existence. We will find beauty and joy and happiness. So while it is an absurd act to cook well it is an act, none the less, that allows us to find happiness and well being in the daily struggle of life. To sit down and enjoy a good dinner and a fine bottle of wine is an act of rebellion (which explains my choice of picture at the beginning) against that march that leads to our final end. It says we will not just exist and then die, but we will live this life before we depart it.

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