Cooking as a Living Art
In my experience, cooking is one of the finest and most important arts given to humanity. Through the art of cooking we sustain the activity of life-body, soul, and spirit - to enable us to fulfill our life's purpose and destiny. Nothing less!
The cook as artist sees how the activities in the kitchen flow together with the processes of the living world. In the kitchen we begin to cook with the ripe, so-called end manifestation of cosmic and earthly forces - the roots, leaves, fruits, and seeds. We take these foods and, through cooking, further enliven, enrich, and transform them. With a deeper understanding for what is in progress and what wants to be expressed, we create healthy seasonable meals. We make dishes that embrace the dynamic of change, balancing the individual changing conditions and the changes in our environment. Cooking is surely a living art closely linked to the health of humanity.
The painter's workplace is his or her art studio. The cook's art studio is the kitchen. Before either of them begins to create, they get their workplace in order. The painter gets the canvas stretched, gets the different brushes ready, and chooses the colors s/he wants to work with. Likewise the cook brings out cutting board, pots and pans, sharpened knives, and utensils, and chooses colorful ingredients for his or her creations. Before starting, both might have an idea of what they want to create. The painter might want to paint the mood of the moonlit seashore with gusty winds. The cook wants to make a meal that balances the cool weather of the day, the season of the year, and may decide on a warming, nourishing colorful stew and freshly baked muffins with side dishes of stir-fried leafy greens and pickled beets.
Most importantly, as the painter paints, s/he lives into the moonlit seashore with his or her whole being. Similarly the cooking artist goes beyond theories, recipes, and techniques and lives into the activity of life itself. The cook penetrates the heart of truth from which all life originates and imbues his or her cooking with a liveliness and freshness that reflects this truth.
The painter will study color theories, art history, the warmth and coolness of the colors, perspective, lines, strokes, and much more. The cook who approaches cooking as an art will also study and bring knowledge together with common sense, imagination, and intuition in free exploration. S/he will observe the secrets of nature and how and where the ingredients s/he wants to use originate. The cook would want to know what brought them into being and what forces and processes were active in the creation of theses foods. S/he will want to learn about different cutting techniques and cooking methods, understand the effects of cooling and warming food and dishes, and discover how to enhance different qualities, tastes, and textures. Perhaps s/he is interested in learning about traditional and historical uses of foods or cooking styles and herb lore from the region s/he lives in. S/he might also want to learn about how to cook for different health conditions and temperaments and how to cook to support what s/he wants to become in life.
One of the most interesting things I learned as a painter was to understand how the magnificent colors are created from the interplay of light and darkness. At night I watched the sky, pitch black with sparkles of stars shimmering in the distance. In the day I looked at the same dark sky through the light of the sun and what I saw was blue! In the evening I looked at the sunset, the concentrated light through layers of darkening atmosphere. The light intensified from bright yellow to orange and red as the sun got closer to the horizon and more layers of atmosphere, of darkness, came between the light and me as the observer. Right then I understood that all the magnificent, qualitatively different colors I saw were created from the interplay of the light and darkness.
It is very similar with cooking. We as cooks continue to work with ethereal cosmic and earthly forces (the light and darkness) to make a multitude of magnificent, colorful, and qualitatively different dishes and meals.
Because we can continue in the kitchen the creative process that nature began, we can enjoy and digest a variety of wonderful foods and dishes, which would otherwise not be accessible to us. We can completely transform the foods that we work with. The art of cooking teaches us, for example, how to change raw indigestible grains into wholesome breads, muffins, cakes, delicious pancakes, waffles, porridges, noodles, spaghetti, and more. By preparing food in different ways, different qualities in the food come about. We can use various cutting styles and cooking methods to change the nutritional elements of the dishes and create a variety of tastes, fragrances, and textures. Visually, qualitatively, and nutritiously, the cooking artist can create a meal beautifully balanced between lightness and darkness. This is truly a living art.
Every day, right in the kitchen, we have an opportunity to approach our daily cooking artistically in an attitude of awe and reverence. How enriching and empowering to consciously co-create with nature in the kitchen!