The Value of Learning To Cook

April 18, 2015

The potential of food to add beauty/pleasure to everyday life should not be under-estimated.

I have been discussing job skills for the past five days, but life skills are equally valuable. For example, knowing how to cook. Knowing how to cook offers benefits beyond just saving money (though that is important); when you know how to cook:

1. You and your household will eat healthier, better-tasting food

2. You can create joy by sharing what you make with friends/neighbors/roommates

3. You gain the power and confidence that comes with having useful skills

4. You can add beauty and pleasure to your life and the lives of others

5. You can dramatically improve your health

6. Your value as a spouse, roommate, friend, colleague etc. rises

7. You can save money for investing or spending on higher-priority items/experiences

8. You have a daily creative outlet

The joys of cooking are varied and flexible. Once you gain the basic skills of prep (chopping, slicing, etc.), stir-frying, sauteeing, baking, etc., then just about any recipe is open to you.

It takes a lot of practice to create beautiful food (presentation), but this is a bonus. I am not adept enough to fashion such perfect spring rolls as the lady of the household; these were her first spring rolls, made a week or so ago (the dipping sauce is from Charles Pham's cookbook Vietnamese Home Cooking):

This is more my style: a burger topped with a nice brie cheese (from Costco--very reasonably priced) and home-made pickles--a remarkably easy project.

Even the simplest meals can be presented attractively. Though beauty is dismissed in our culture unless it's being used to signal wealth/prestige/power, the potential of food to add beauty/pleasure to everyday life should not be under-estimated.

The social capital value of sharing appealing, home-made food should also not be under- estimated. Watch how everyone's eyes light up when you stop by with freshly baked pie or a delicious meal; the simple act of sharing something you devoted time and energy to make transforms a mundane day into a special one for the person receiving your home-cooked treat/meal.

By the time you set up to make one or two for yourself, it's not that hard to make more to share with others:

Our Peach Pie Workshop:

If you type what's cooking at our house into the custom search box in the upper left sidebar, you will find many entries such as What's Cooking at our House: Sichuan Green Beans. My goal in sharing our day-to-day cooking is to show that it isn't that hard to create delicious meals--especially if you have a garden. I am not a great cook, but being a great cook isn't necessary. Knowing the basics and understanding that the prep is 90% of the process is enough.

The hierarchies and complexities of our society tend to make us feel powerless and helpless. In many ways, we are powerless to change the socio-economic structures and some are more equal than others dynamics of the world we inhabit.

But we are not powerless or helpless when it comes to shaping our inner lives and our household lives. We can bring health, beauty, sharing and creativity into our lives by knowing how to cook.

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