On the Origin of Cooking

  • Laura T.

    Laura T.

    Rank #2 of 1949

    Votes: 4710

    About my essay:

    Because the ding of a microwave oven knells a wasted caveman death.

Why cook well? Because the ding of a microwave oven knells a wasted caveman death, and because every time you sacrifice a good meal for the sake of convenience, you are extending a middle finger to what it means to be human.

 

Ever since that first hairy beastie rescued a charred chunk of mammoth meat from the fire and took a cautious nibble, it has taken eons of trial and unpleasant--often fatal--error to build up the wealth of culinary knowledge residing in our collective wisdom.  More than one Cro-Magnon munched on that beguiling parsnip knock-off, the poison hemlock root, and died before it was struck out of our dietary portfolio.  Ancient tribes somehow worked out that if they merely peeled, ground, soaked, squeezed, squeezed again, and then finally toasted cassava root, it would stop trying to murder them with cyanide.  And most baffling of all is that shepherd who stumbled across a long-forgotten bowl of milk in a damp cave and, upon observing its fungal veins and distinct aroma of sweaty feet, decided to place a squishy dollop on his tongue.    

 

So every time you tuck into a real parsnip, tapioca pudding, or a smear of Roquefort, give thanks that your predecessors yielded to their demented impulses so that you, modern human, can eat something delicious that will not kill you.

 

Cook well because otherwise you are shafting hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution, ingenuity and gastrointestinal discomfort.

 

“But I’m too tired to cook!” you cry, “After a hard day of work, it’s all I can do to consume nuggets of chicken slurry and phosphates from the nearest quick service restaurant!”

 

Whatever. Your great-grandmother managed to cook a meal in a wood-burning stove after spending all day scrubbing laundry on a wash-board with lye soap and, against overwhelming odds, raising your grandparent past the age of ten.  You live in a time where such innovations as refrigeration, stick blenders, and opposable thumbs make it easier than ever to cook a delicious meal. This is not an excuse.

 

Cook well because we alone among the fizzing sparks of life in this sundrenched world perform this alchemy, the transmutation of raw ingredients into pleasure and nourishment through applying heat and lashings of riotous creativity. It is lunacy to outsource this unique expression of our humanity to robots, and factories, and monolithic corporations.  

 

But most importantly, cook well because you deserve it.  You did not make it all the way to the end of a jangling evolutionary chain just to eat the chemical dribblings determined most satisfactory to your market demographic.  No, you are worthy of a plate of real food, all ablaze with flavors and textures and nutritional value.  Cook well because no amount of mass-produced convenience food can ever compare to your favorite meal prepared by you, for you, just the way you like it, with actual produce that come from the lush, rich earth.

 

Cook well because you can, you miracle of evolution.  

comments

Molly G.:

What an interesting essay. We have taken for granted and not remember that all the delicious food we consume tiday have been tested and tried by our predecessors some of which have indeed proved fata!. Wonder how many have kicked the bucket eating the flesh of the blowfish before discovering that the poison can be cut out by expert chefs and the delcious flesh safely consumed.

August 29, 2010 Report Abuse
Sue P.:

I like this: "Because the ding of a microwave oven knells a wasted caveman death." So well described - the "ding" and "knell"!

August 29, 2010 Report Abuse
Ling T.:

Reading this essay, reminds me of a tale of how the roast suckling pig originated told by a friend over a dinner of this dish. The story goes that long long ago in a tiny village in China there was a farmer who reared pigs for a living. One day, his hog house caught fire and although he managed to put the fire down, was not able to save his pigs especially his sow and a nest of suckling pigs. As he was lamenting over his loss, all of his neighbors flocked to his farm, following the waft of delicious aroma of BBQ meat. They looked into the sty and beheld the suckling pigs in a row lying next to the sow nicely roasted golden brown. They beckoned to the owner, who also smelt the aroma and was easily coaxed into tasting the meat. Delighted at this discovery, he allowed his neighbors to sample the taste, some of whom bought the remaining pigs. Having made this discovery, he turned his misfortune into a lucrative enterprise, raising sucklong pigs and burning down the hoghouse as soon as the pigs were ready. Soon his neighbors got wise, copied his recipe nd every so often styes were burnt to roast piglets. This simple and messy recipe soon evolved into the perfect and delectable roast suckling pig today - a gastonomical delight - the crispy skin, each slice served wrapped in a round flat pancake, with a smear of sweet black soy sauce, a sliver of cucumber and julienned scallion in it. Whether it is a myth or fact, this little anecdote shows that the author, of this essay has expressed aptly her thoughts on the "Origins of Cooking" viz  "the transmutation of raw ingredients into pleasure and nourishment through applying heat and lashings of riotous creativity ..." Excellent.

September 3, 2010 Report Abuse
Cru V.:

What an interestingly humorous way to deliver a serious message. Great job!

September 4, 2010 Report Abuse
Michael R.:

Does Bill Bryson get an assist on this, Laura?  You could do worse. 

What a wonderful essay--supple, strong, humored, and so beautifully paced.

You get my vote.  Thank you for sharing.

 

All the best and then some,

 

Michael

September 9, 2010 Report Abuse
Michael R.:

Does Bill Bryson get an assist on this, Laura?  You could do worse. 

What a wonderful essay--supple, strong, humored, and so beautifully paced.

You get my vote.  Thank you for sharing.

 

All the best and then some,

 

Michael

September 9, 2010 Report Abuse
Jes E.:

Well said. We all can cook well if we try.

September 14, 2010 Report Abuse
Abby L.:

Para 6 of your essay has encouraged me to cook well. My great grandma was an excellent cook. Starting from scratch, she was able to put scrumptious food on the table at every meal! With latest kitchen aids, I should make an attempt to cook! If not every meal - at least one good meal a day. Thanks for the reminder.

September 15, 2010 Report Abuse
Rae L.:

This is great, and makes me want to stop for some Danish Blue on my way home tonight.

September 28, 2010 Report Abuse