The Art of Cooking

I'm still here. I know it's been almost two weeks since I posted anything, but my blog is still here and active. There are several things going on right now, most of which revolve around my passion for helping people to eat a healthy, whole food, plant-based diet. And one of those passionate areas is helping people to learn how to cook using whole, plant-based foods.

Cooking has become a lost art for the most part. In fact, I was talking to my daughter about it recently, and she remarked that my generation may be the last generation that really did cook to any degree. And even then, there was seldom much variety to our cooking. If it was Sunday, then it was meatloaf. If it was Monday, it was spaghetti and meatballs. And so on. The routine did not vary. But it made cooking easy. Every week, there was the same shopping list. And all anyone needed to know was how to make seven simple recipes.

But it was my generation (the baby boomers) that also saw the introduction of fast food restaurants. First, in my neighborhood growing up, there was Dairy Queen and then there was McDonald's. We could go to McDonald's and get our fifteen cent hamburger and then hightail it over to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone. All for one little quarter. About the same time, the TV dinner entered our homes. Although there were still no microwaves, the ease of preparing the TV dinner made life so much better. Or at least it seemed so at the time. Nobody needed to spend time in the kitchen preparing the food and cleaning up afterwards.

And with the advent of the two-earner family, people suddenly had no time to cook anymore. As a result, over the generations, many people stopped cooking. I know entire families where nobody ever cooks. There's a lot of calling out for pizza or running out to the local fast food restaurant. Sometimes, a bag of chips and a bottle of beer or glass of wine are all it takes to make for an evening's dinner. And even among those in my generation, if the meal isn't one of those standard seven, then people are at a loss for how to make a good meal.

I think that's one of the hardest parts about going whole food, plant-based. People don't know what to eat. And if they do decide on what to eat, they don't know how to make it. So, if I tell somebody who is new to this way of eating that I'm having chili tonight and I suggest that to them too, what are they going to do? In all likelihood, the newbie might end up at the grocery store buying a can of vegetarian chili, with all the salt and oils that shouldn't be part of a whole food, plant-based diet either. How about pizza? Why make a pizza when you can buy frozen pizzas without cheese at the grocery store? But again, they come with oil (and mostly omega-6 oil at that).

So, we often "get" the vegan part of the diet, but then we forget about the no oil part of the diet or the low sodium part of the diet or the minimization of processed foods part of the diet. And all of those are also essential parts of the whole food, plant-based diet.

Unfortunately, when we choose fast foods, processed foods and other easy venues, we are missing the full health benefits to be derived from a whole food, plant-based diet. The truth of the matter is, we have to cook. I hear people now saying, "But I hate to cook." And that was me. Up until the past year, my idea of cooking was to throw something on the grill. If I couldn't do that, then it needed to come in a box and be microwaveable.

But since going WFPB and realizing that the only way to get the benefits of it is to cook for myself, I've slowly come around. And I find that I actually enjoy cooking. That's something I'm sure my wife would have bet money on that I'd never say. But as I've gotten into it, I've found that, for me, cooking has given me a more intimate knowledge of and relationship with the foods that I eat. I suppose that sounds kind of weird, but it really does. And there's something artistic about creating a wonderful dish of good tasting foods.

But most importantly, by cooking, I know what is going into the foods I eat. I know that there's no oil because I didn't put any oil into the food. I know how much salt, if any, there is in a dish. And so on. I have total control over whether or not my dish is healthy and meets WFPB diet guidelines.

The one nice thing is, there are a number of resources to help us with learning to cook and to help us in making specific dishes. While we have to be careful about using Google to find vegan recipes, since many that pop up will not necessarily be healthy, we can recognize certain names as providing us with the right information. The Happy Herbivore comes to mind as a website to go to for good WFPB recipes. Or purchase one of her cookbooks.

Another great resource is the Food for Life classes sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). By going to their website, it's possible to find classes in your local area. And the classes all provide excellent recipes. I've even served some of them to my family and had them going back for seconds (even though they aren't vegan).

So, the resources are out there. Don't let cooking stay a lost art. Keep it alive.