Cooking is much more than a biological need. It can be a form of creative expression, a language chock full of sensual communication through the subtleties of taste, scent, sight, sound, touch and emotion. Food often expresses our state of mind and cooking can be revealing to those who partake. On the other hand, it also can connect us with earthly rhythms through a medium of fresh ingredients and preparation methods. Some of the travesties of modern relationships with food consumption come from the pre-packaged, pre-cooked and artificially preserved products that distance us (both mentally and physically) from the frequently significant workings of the planet Earth. As I discovered in Indian traditions, only freshly prepared food was considered fit for a civilized lifestyle. Old food and leftovers were relegated to feeding animals and charity. Before refrigeration, this was true in most cultures where food was both a source of nutrition and loving expression.
The immediate sensuous beauty of an attentively crafted meal is why a chef’s culinary performance may be eagerly anticipated. Food is at once intimate and exposed in a very existential way. Each meal consists of a series of moments which can lead to lasting mental imagery. Through the dialects of food, inhibitions may also be discarded, allowing one to freely participate in the grand scheme of life. Food also offers an opportunity to find relevance in everyday occurrences through endearing connections with people and the planet. Understanding what, and how, to eat is a defining key to quality in a lifestyle. It is also a source of joy and an exercise in intelligence, expressed in French as joie de vivre. Whether elaborate or simple, celebrating every meal can add years to a lifespan as well as enhance one’s relationship with the world and its inhabitants.