Monday, September 14, 2009

Listen To Your Body

Well now folks, it has been long enough without my writing here - in part because when I began I had just come out of hospital after an operation and my energies have been mainly focused on getting better, and part of those energies have been put towards eating well.

In some ways there is no better time to get to know yourself - your actual body - than when you are ill. Not death-defyingly ill, of course, but just recovering without incident from an operation. You know you are getting better because you are hungrier; because your ability to eat itself grows in appetite and what you are interested in eating.

Cooking Without Looking's philosophy - which is to say mine - is that in order to eat well you have to listen to your body. Turn your ear around metaphorically for a moment or two and listen to what your palate and stomach have to say. If you have a craving for something it is usually - though not always - because in some way your body needs it to balance itself out. Thirst and hunger in the extreme cancel out such ability to listen (the body at that point is just about screaming and doesn't really care what you eat or drink) - but if you have a glass of water and a plain biscuit and are in a good quiet state, you are ready to listen.

Of course, what your palate and stomach might want is up to them. They may want something new, something they know well, something salty or sweet or crunchy or smooth or complex or simple. The brain of course might think they need something different - but the body won't know what an artichoke or a parsnip or duck taste like and the brain might have to humor them along, throwing enough salt, oil, fruit and so on into the mix until the body says "okay." That is one hell of an intimate conversation, and I think in order to be happy foodwise you have to have such conversations - maybe not every day, but at least once a week, so you can really know at any time what your body wants vs. what you are missing out on sensually (and I am using that word literally). Too many people wolf their food down or don't really care about what they eat in that intimate way - they get that you are what you eat, to be sure, but they don't marvel at what they eat nor who they are, let alone the whole chain of events that brings the food to their mouths.

Well, I do.

I also believe that if you go beyond just getting something to nibble on or drink in the kitchen, you are cooking, even if you're just adding ketchup to some leftovers or mixing up a drink. Cooking means altering something fundamentally to make a new thing to me - not just turning an appliance on and waiting for something to start beeping or steaming. So some of what I write here may not seem like 'cooking' to a chef, but to those who are modest or phobic or reluctant or nervous - this blog is for you, along with everyone else who cooks.