There’s something intimate about cooking with someone else. Anthony Bourdain even talks about it in the professional kitchen, among colleagues, in ‘Kitchen Confidential‘. I highly recommend it for foodies who think they maybe want to cook professionally. It convinced me I didn’t. But it also illustrated the strange and rough bonds that are forged in the cramped heat of a restaurant kitchen. Relationships so close that commentary on the nature of one’s birth, and encouragement to engage in coitus with various people and animals are considered appropriate workplace discussion.
It is, of course, possible that he exaggerates, or that time has progressed in such a way that such things no longer occur. Maybe he had a deep attraction to that crowd. But the theme remains; preparing food with other people is something we, as a species, have always done, and it helps form bonds, or reinforce the ones we already have.
We tend to romanticise this, in strange commercials with pasta sauce boiling away on the stove, and two people, one feeding the other a spoonful of jarred sauce with ecstasy glowing in their eyes. I have questions about this scene.
First of all, sauce from a jar is fine, but is it so exciting you have to have someone else taste it and share the transcendence? I really think not. There are perfectly acceptable sauces on the market, and when time and/or money is tight, pasta and inexpensive sauce is a great meal. But not ‘radiant with passion’ great.
Second, the point of cooking together is the communication between you, the sharing of the experience, maybe for one person to teach another something new. If you have young people in your house, it’s a great way to pass down the flavors and stories of your past. It’s easy to remember the great grandmother your child never met, and the way she stirred that tiny pot on the stove — she remembered the Depression, and would never have wasted food. She was grateful for what she had, and that lesson lingers in those who remember her, and later, those who remember her story. There never seems to be any of that in these commercials, just the weird sexualization of pasta sauce. You know there’s garlic in it, right?
Third, they’re so short. I know this is the nature of the beast, and I don’t want to watch sexy pasta people forever either. But real food takes time, and if you’re onboarding assistants, take your time. Sure, you want to eat, but if you rush it, you miss the whole experience. Whether you’re sharing priceless family tradition, or just making sure your kids can feed themselves when they move out, you don’t want to leave out the good parts: relationship, history, the joy of lovingly preparing sustenance for someone who truly matters to you. It takes time. Sometimes the time itself is the gift.
So cook with your children, your parents, your siblings, lovers, whatever. Share a bite with the dog. Learn from them, teach them, love them, enjoy their company as you dine on the things you’ve created for each others’ pleasure. Man is not meant to dine alone. Nor to cook.