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There is a kind of sorcery in cooking, in choosing ingredients, coaxing each nuance of flavor from the foods we prepare. We wash vegetables, fresh from the farm market or grocer, caressing their smooth skin, gently cleansing them. We stir simmering pots, steam rising, sweat beading on our skin, leaving it moist, slightly salty. We spoon finished dishes onto platters and into bowls, pasta mounded, fragrant with the heady scents of fresh herbs. We delight in delicately cooked vegetable stews, soups that warm us for good digestion, seemingly modest grains, lustily silky under their neutral appearance; crisp, vital salads, lush with the passion of the season, succulent fruits, juice spurting.

Are you thinking that this doesn’t sound like your experience in the kitchen–or your experience of food?  Too bad…because this is life when you cook.

Cooking is an art form being rapidly lost. No matter what you prepare, your love of the kitchen determines whether or not your meals are delicious or pedestrian, sublime or just a way to feed yourself.

Cooking has become a chore for us, another hassle to be endured at the end of a long day. We can barely stand the thought of it. In a way, it’s not our fault.  We work hard, dutifully keep our journals, meditate because it’s good for us, exercise, sweat and toil at life because it’s good for us. It will make us better people. Seems like a lot of work to be happy, balanced and healthy, doesn’t it?

Lost in the shuffle of life are the most primal acts of nourishing ourselves: cooking and eating; the simple pleasure of preparing the food that is responsible for our lives, loves and behavior in the world. Can you imagine anything sweeter or more satisfying than your loved ones gathered around a table, enjoying a delicious meal that you prepared for them? Can you imagine anything lonelier than eating drive-thru in the isolation of your car? The way we regard food, from its purchase to the served meal influences the way we feel about the art of nourishment.

Cooking is a divine art with which we create life. To really develop a passion for food and an appreciation for its impact on our life and health, you must cook. Sorry. I know; I know; we’re all so busy. And I’m asking you to go back into the kitchen, work up a sweat, get your hands dirty and cook. I’m asking that you reprioritize your life and make the space you need to nourish yourself and those you love. I’m asking you to skip some of your ever-important extra-curricular activities and go home and prepare a meal. Not a popular stance, I’m told, but one that can change your life.

When we cook for ourselves, we decide how we’ll feel every day. We decide how we’ll behave, how we’ll handle stress, how we’ll interact with our families and friends. The kind of food we choose and prepare is the fuel that operates us. Think about it. We put superior petrol in our cars so they’ll run smoothly. But we think we can subsist on drive-thru. Make sense?  Not to me.

I think that it’s time that we see food and its preparation as something sacred and sensual. It’s how we create life every day. Sure, it’s work and we’ll sweat and toil at it.  But the payoff is just amazing. Imagine feeling strong and vital most of the time, happy and at peace, clear-minded and grounded, joyful at the thought of life. Can all this come from cooking? All this and more.

The ritual of coming together and breaking bread together was once the foundation of community…and remains so today. At the table, values are taught and senses heightened to the delight of the sensual experience of eating. We reap the reward of family living. Humanistic values are learned, more than anywhere else, at the dinner table. Eating together passes on the ideas of courtesy, kindness, sharing, thrift, respect, reverence and gratitude. The shared meal is the core of civilized being, cultivating a capacity for thoughtfulness.

In modernAmerica, over fifty percent of families no longer share meals together on a regular basis. With the advent of frozen dinners, instant food, drive-thru, take-away and our growing need to be active and away from the home, sharing meals has dropped dramatically on our list of essentials. And with such an array of restaurants to choose from; with Philadelphia being considered a mecca of cuisine, home cooking is a tough sell.

And while this is not an admonishment about eating out, it’s time to rediscover the joys of the home cooked meal; to embrace the seduction of the richness of the aromas of a food-scented kitchen. Fast food, processed food, threatens the fabric of our lives and well-being, poisons the environment and robs us of our health and our future.

Are the acts of cooking and eating in more work?  Will you cook more and spend more time in the kitchen?  Will you shop more frequently and stock your pantry more fully?  Yes…to all.  Will it be worth it?  Yes…completely.

Image Source: Pam Loves Pie/Flickr