Heretic. Who would dare say such a thing? Certainly not a ‘foodie’, that’s for sure.
Eating is the foundation of life on earth, across continents and through species, but cooking is the technique that homo-sapiens has adopted for it’s unique spin on this primeval process. No other living creature cooks what they eat, it’s unique to us, the humans.
If I had a pound for every time someone told me cooking skills will solve virtually all problems with the food world, I’d be an extremely wealthy man. It’s oft repeated, quoted rote in the face of any question about making the world healthy again. It is, of course, a marvellous skill, perhaps one that I take for granted, because I’ve done a lot of it.
From my young days spent licking cake mix off a spoon in my mum’s kitchen, through being occasionally dumped in a hotel kitchen to cook 30 full English breakfasts when staff didn’t turn up, to developing 160 recipes for my food blog. I eat home-cooked food three times a day, almost every day, and my freezer is overflowing with pre-cooked meals, whole fish and pizza dough, so I can eat well with minimal cooking.
Yet, do I enjoy this process? Not really.
It’s something I endure, rather than celebrate. Like cleaning the house, it’s a chore which is important to live in a healthy environment, yet many people outsource it as soon as they can afford to.
I cook for one, which could easily be cited as the source of my misanthropic view, yet I was no more happy cooking when in relationships, as I was making twice as much food, ergo double the chore. These days a stockpot full of vegetable kitcheree will make eight dinners, rather than four. However, cooking for guests is a pleasure, as I can show off and nothing makes me happier than a cheap box of super-fresh oysters from the fish market. These are the special occasions of eating which I celebrate.
I’ll never disagree with those who support cooking skills, they’re valuable to help people make good choices about what to eat and how to maintain a healthy diet. The point is that cooking at home is not very exciting, it’s actually quite dull on a daily basis.
Big business always has a snappy marketing message and a good story, an aspirational vision enticing us into their corporate world of mass produced food. Healthy food campaigns lack this, they’re never as slick and sexy as the razor sharp image of commercial foods. For several years I worked in graphic design for exhibitions and retail, I can assure you, the quality of the images that multinational companues use really are at the top of the game.
Adverts pull us towards food that is questionable for regular consumption in an utterly seductive way, I often find myself getting quite excited about the latest fast-food fad being advertised — yes, I’m looking at the golden arches. The thought of home cooking is like driving home in my knackered old Volkswagen Golf after having done a few hot laps around Brands Hatch in a Ferrari with Lewis Hamilton. Dull and uninspiring.
Herein lays the question, if home cooking is a bit dull, how do I change that narrative? Or am I being an awful cynic? Does our contemporary food culture, which is dominated by a desperate pursuit of novelty for the ‘gram, make the gap between the excitement of what’s “out there” and the grind of what’s “in here” seem larger by the day?
Is this only solved by the next generation learning to cook from a young age, so they raise children who also cook from a young age, therefore effecting a massive trans-generational u-turn? Or does the fact remain that just like hoovering the stairs, cooking is simply a burden that comes with being a bi-pedal homo-sapiens?
Do I simply need to grow up and get used to that fact that cooking is a slightly boring aspect of learning to adult? Or place all my hopes on better luck next time, via reincarnation as an otter and therefore avoid cooking for ever more?