Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cooking is Over

I recently listened to a fascinating interview on the NPR program “Fresh Air.” The focus of the show centered on the idea of cooking. The person being interviewed had some very interesting insights as to our society’s relationship with food. One such insight was the inverted proportion regarding people watching cooking shows compared with those of us who actually still cook. Research has proven the wild popularity of cooking shows. This same research has illustrated the fact that the vast majority of U.S. society would rather pick up the phone and place an order than pick up a spatula.

Another insight that was offered was the idea that the act of cooking, as with the act of producing tools and works of art, is an intrinsically human act. Cooking is something our species does because of some deeply seeded need and is a primal act. Marketing experts would disagree however. A very prominent marketing executive recently heralded the death of cooking. He went on to proclaim that within a few generations the act of cooking would be as alien as using a rotary dial phone is now. A very succinct example he used to bolster his argument was eating chicken. In the past, such meals were not entered into lightly. Cooking such a dish involved a tremendous amount of preparation. Before one could even begin to actually cook the meat one had to kill a chicken, pluck the bird, and remove and dispose of the bones and innards (not to mention all the blood). Suffice it to say, preparing the same dish is vastly more convenient nowadays.

Nonetheless, there is something instinctively more appealing about sitting down to a beautifully prepared, exquisitely flavorful home-cooked meal as compared to something squeezed out of a plastic bag, plopped onto a plate, and then zapped in a microwave for ten minutes. So, in the interest of preserving our humanity (and beating back the tide of obesity), I challenge everyone to prove the marketing executives wrong by picking up pots and pans and cooking utensils and revolt by dedicating some time in the kitchen to whipping up something tasty and nutritious.

To pull up the vast amounts of items the Austin Public Library has in its collection on cooking, use the subject term, cookery. You can further refine your retrieved results by specifying that certain terms appear within the title field or subject field of the bibliographic records. Here are a few titles that interest me:

The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food: Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food was Seasonal, Regional, and Traditional: From the Lost WPA Files

Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico

Lidia's Italy

Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen


Anonymous said...

Was the interview with Michael Pollan? He wrote a similar article published in last week's New York Times Magazine.

Curious Orange said...

Yes, that is correct.