"Out Of The Kitchen, Onto The Couch," the feature story Michael Pollan wrote for The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago got me thinking. The piece focuses on America’s increasing consumption of pre-made meals and a reliance on supermarket convenience food. The article emphasizes the fact that all over the country, American stoves are gathering dust and ovens are accumulating cobwebs.
On top of the most obvious disadvantages of consuming processed foods rife with preservatives, chemicals, and hormones, the decline of American cooking means something else. Because we are what we eat, in more ways than we know.
Think about what it takes to prepare a meal by hand: time, effort, patience, and care. All of these elements find their way into the food we make, especially if the meal is intended for people who mean something to us. It’s called cooking with love. Countless individuals have caught on to this phenomenon and transformed it into lovely works of art. I’m thinking of literature and films including Like Water for Chocolate, Ruth Reichl’s memoirs, Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples, the films Babette’s Feast, Chocolat, and most recently, Julie and Julia. Even The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci includes a nod to food as love!
All of these pieces tell the same story. Food is an incredibly potent means to transmit beautiful sparks of humanity--passion, tenderness, care, pleasure, gratitude, and goodwill. It doesn’t get more direct than it does with food. You feel an emotion, infuse the food with that feeling, and then someone puts that food in their body! This knowledge alone is compelling enough to inspire me to close the computer, get off the couch, and start cooking. Right now.