I know someone who counsels with people who suffer from obesity. Apparently one of the biggest challenges for people who become overweight is a fear of cooking. This is often because they have forgotten skills they might once have had, or they feel excluded by what they perceive to be a special skill. This results in a reliance on processed foods, which then leads to dependence on refined sugars and salts. Which is what kills us, if the health problems associated with being obese don’t first.
Our relationship with food should be like love. But not an obsessive, dependent passion. We can all remember those gnawing youthful hours, wondering whether the object of our latest desire would ring back. And many of us will have spent parts of our lives wondering whether we could improve the damaging relationships in which we found ourselves. What anyone who is in a long established, rewarding relationship knows, is that to succeed it takes effort, discipline, respect, and sometimes ingenuity.
Cooking is the same. It isn’t always obvious in the face of the vast swathes of cheap and easy products available to satisfy our appetites. But unlike those promiscuous affairs, when you bother to find the ingredients you really want to spend your life with, the results are lifelong. Nor is there any real secret about how to make them work for you. If you know what you like to eat, then you’ll be able to cook.
It seems that in some cases the TV cooking industry has had the reverse effect of making cooking seem like some sort of specialist, creative activity. Like a secret art form open only to those who are sufficiently clever and inspired. But it’s not true. Cooking is a basic human instinct. We’ve been eating, chopping, shaping, flavouring, enticing ingredients into something delicious since time began. Sadly, as the way many of us live has changed, the basic skills we require to cook are no longer valued: we’ve gradually found it easier to let others take control of what we eat.
To make our relationship with food and cooking healthy, we need supreme confidence – which is always the result of that wonderful battle between deep desire and fierce independence. Because with confidence, we can experiment, fail, explore and ultimately discover successfully what our taste-buds most adore and what our body most needs to keep it healthy and well-fed. Then we take into our own hands the responsibility for the health and happiness of its complex physiology.
Like a lover, we need to keep them interested. We can never assume they will stay around for ever.