Slowing down…

Cooking as meditation

In the past few weeks I was overwhelmed with responsibilities both at work and at home. Besides that, I was getting ready for two trips on two consecutive weekends. I didn’t leave myself time at all to carefully plan my meals and cook them. That manifested in my plea to readers a few days ago for quick and easy meals.

In the last two days, I’ve started reading the book I bought at All Good Books, our new bookstore in town (only 4 miles from me.) “We Are What We Eat” by Alice Waters, owner and chef at the famed Chez Panisse, is subtitled “A Slow Food Manifesto.” I’m only halfway through the book and I’m already inspired. Waters makes you want to slow down, to break the cycle of our fast food mentality and culture, and draw pleasure from the craft of making our daily sustenance.

The Fast Food Culture

Waters devotes the first half of the book to outlining seven terrible aspects of fast food. By that, she doesn’t mean just our reliance on chain restaurants offering burgers and tacos, but any way of providing food that is mass produced, in factory or industrial settings, with herbicides and pesticides. Fast food is its own culture, and like any culture, it has certain values. After reading this first half of the book, I can sense she thinks of them almost as seven deadly sins to healthy eating: Convenience, uniformity, availability, trust in advertising, cheapness, “more is better” and speed.

Convenience – ever since the first Swanson frozen TV dinner was introduced in the 50s, every food manufacturer has been selling us convenience. And convenience does have a place: Waters released this book in 2021, during the 2nd wave of the COVID pandemic, and people were relying on all sorts of conveniences: UberEATS in particular. But the uniformity of mass-produced food has led us all to be suspicious of the local, the new, the unfamiliar. And availability: today, we think all foods should be on hand everywhere, at all times! Seasonality is a foreign concept. Our way of cooking in America has relied on a trust in advertising, that we accept that these factory-produced foods are actually good, and the producers have our best interests at heart. Hah! Cheapness and “more is better” – can there be any values that typify the biggie size fast-food meal?

Art by Dall-E; fast food in the style of Claude Monet

All of these resonate, but the last spoke to me in particular. Why are we trying to save so much time by not cooking? By not shopping for our own food? I’ve learned over the past few months, as I’ve prepared Keto meals, that cooking can be a relaxing time. By spending time in the kitchen, I’m not spending time on my phone, doom-scrolling as I wait for the Uber EATS delivery person. I can control what I eat and how I cook it. I’m learning to be more creative in preparing my meals. None of this, rightly approached, is a burden. Instead, it is a return to “slow living” after the hectic pace of my day. I’m so looking forward to finishing this book; to finding out how Waters describes the international slow food movement and read of her discoveries in being part of it.

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