I have a friend who is not that into food. She mostly sees it as fuel, with an occasional concern for some minor preferences (no ketchup, eggs boiled hard, dark German beer). For her, the act of eating falls into the category of basic maintenance, like brushing her teeth or taking a shower. It's a not very exciting but necessary activity, the kind of thing that can be occasionally skipped if no one is watching. Don't worry, she has plenty of other passions. Food just isn't one of them.
I love my friend, and I believe she is as happy and fulfilled as any human being can expect to be these days. But there's no way I would switch places with her. I cannot imagine my life without my love of food and the many amazing things that happen while standing in front of a stove.
Cooking is what I turn to when I'm upset or sad or anxious. It gives me something to do while I work out the knots and bad feelings, and often the delicious result of my efforts will cheer me up a bit. I also cook when I'm celebrating or feeling expressive and creative, or when I'm in love. I cook for obvious reasons like hunger and nourishment and of course to feed my friends and loved ones, and even the occasional stranger. I go into the kitchen when I want to feel connected to something ancient and primary, and for the primitive simplicity of feeding and eating and supporting life.
The kitchen also offers kinship with the natural world and the brief, flickering miracles that each season offers. After a day spent pawing at keyboards and cell phone screens, it's a relief to hold something alive and unadulterated in my hands. Something not born of human thinking or design. Something that's familiar (a lovely Rome apple) and mysterious (but sweeter than the one I tasted yesterday) and slightly out of my control (ooh, it's got a little worm in it!).
I know from my friend that not everyone feels this way, and that's fine. Some of us are cooks and disciples of life at the stove, and some of us aren't. Those of us who are, hopefully, will invite those of us who aren't over for dinner on occasion. I confess that it's become both a personal challenge and an act of madness that I keep cooking for my palate-less friend, hoping that one day I will turn on a gustatory light for her. I bear no pain or resentment for my lack of success so far, though, for this desire has lead me towards many amazingly delicious evenings, even if I'm the only one who seems to enjoy them. But what wonderful things in life aren't touched with a bit of love and madness?
What matters most, I guess, is that we find something in our lives that connects us and revitalizes us and gives meaning. The Sufis say that there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. I guess I just happen to do it clutching a soup ladle in my hand.
What about you?
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I hope you enjoyed this encore Weekend Meditation, originally posted in November, 2011. I will be posting these vintage posts every Sunday (with the occasional new post, if I can manage!) for the next several months while I focus on writing my first book.