Why I Cook

imgres-2I wrote this for the Medium this past week.  They are doing a series around food…an area that I am passionate about.

As Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said in 1826, “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” (Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.) Essentially, you are what you eat.

Food provides energy. For your body to be healthy, the energy (food) that you put into it should be healthy. This means a balance of fruit, vegetables, protein, grains, and, of course, sweets. Food should be enjoyable. I am a big believer that everything in moderation is just fine.

Years ago, we lived off the land. As our population increased, however, farmers had to find a new way to feed millions and millions of people. This need prompted the production of food that might look good on the shelf but is full of ingredients that are not healthy for us. The result of this influx of processed goods has been obesity, diabetes, gross food, and an array of health issues.

No doubt there is a movement afoot from consumers who want clean, non-GMO, local products on their table. Many start-ups have been built with the mission to get farm-fresh products to your kitchen. There have been more than a handful of new fast-casual restaurants launched on the basis of serving healthy products. The amount of new consumer products on the market that are gluten-free, free of chemicals, and organic is overwhelming. There has even been a push from the government for healthier lunches in schools, and early data shows the changes have been positive.

I grew up in a house with relatively healthy food. We certainly had our share of Oreos, Life, and Cap’n Crunch cereal in the pantry, but we also had healthy food on hand. I went to school with a ham-and-Swiss sandwich on rye with a piece of fruit, while other kids brought dried meat on Wonder Bread with mayonnaise. We had a coffee grinder with the original Melita drip, and I would wake up to the fresh smell of coffee every morning. Food was definitely an important part of our lives, as something to be enjoyed and shared. That seems to be something this next generation is craving, too. The truth is that is nothing is new; it just comes back around.

I don’t remember when I did not cook. My mother was an incredible cook and her mother was an amazing baker. I love doing both. I involved our kids in the kitchen early on, and now they all enjoy being in the kitchen. We made it a priority to have family dinners almost every night when the kids were growing up. We still do it when we get together on vacations instead of going out. We also get together most Sunday nights for a home-cooked meal, and friends are invited as well. I cook because I want to know what I am eating. I cook because I enjoy the process of being in the kitchen and making something. I find it extremely cathartic.

Food is the foundation for many things — not only for personal health and energy, but as a means to bring friends and family together to take time to enjoy life. The latter would be the time when you might want to indulge in the sweets…