On the Origin of Cooking
Rank #2 of 1949
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.