The Meaning of Cooking

Untitled-3For Caregivers: A Celebration of the Everyday 

My two friends, the Rambling Epicures, are the among the great food writers in America and Europe. They recently posted a notice on their website about a book called, “The Meaning of Cooking.”  

These two Rambling Epicures have great taste, in food, in art and in books. When they recommend, I take it seriously. This book is about the act of cooking as a meticulous exploration of the everyday.

The Essential Puree philosophy is that the kitchen is a place of transformation.  

It is a place of magic and alchemy, where one may change the composition of the human body down to the level of cells. The cook is something of a magician, as well as a purveyor of pleasure. As the friend of this website, the nutritionist and chef Dr. Dee, says, “The healing power of food created with love should not be underestimated.

My favorite response as a cook is the expression that comes on the face of the diner when the taste is sublime: the glance, the smile, the little sigh or groan of pleasure that escapes the throat in surprise. One is fed and so is cared for. It is something that everyone desires. Happiness fills the room. Love is in the air. And love, dear reader, is what we all need. It is the most healing ingredient of all.

So if you’re a professional caregiver or a family member who is a caregiver, and you need something to fill up some quiet hours when the patient is sleeping or resting, get this book and read it. 

This book is for anyone who wants to know the importance of cooking in the words of the great figure of English literature, Dr. Samuel Johnson, the creator of the English dictionary, and his biographer, James Boswell. Readers, take it easy. This is not stuffy:

In 1785, James Boswell and Dr. Johnson were trying to come up with a way of distinguishing human beings from animals. “The beasts have memory, judgement, and all the faculties and passions of our mind, in a certain degree,” said Boswell, “but no beast is a cook.”

Cooking is central to our lives, despite the fact that it never received the attention from serious scholars it might have had Boswell’s definition caught on.

The kitchen is in many ways the heart of the home, and the dining table is the family’s little theatre where we all act out our parts. It has its script (“how has your day been?”) and it is the setting for both the pleasures and the crises of couples and family life. Having to sit facing each other brings out the best and the worst in us. Eating a meal is an ordeal by truth, and it reveals the true state of our conjugal and parental relationships.

In this rich and highly entertaining book the French sociologist Jean-Claude Kaufmann takes us into kitchens and dining rooms and deciphers the meaning of food, cooking and eating in the lives of families and couples. We get inside cooks’ heads and come to know their innermost – and often contradictory – thoughts. Should they rustle up a quick and simple meal, or create something special? That’s a difficult question, as they are forging social relationships as well as making meals.