Lessons from cooking…

Celebrated TV Chef Nigella Lawson in an interview in the Observer says cooking is a metaphor for her life. This is something I’ve wondered about too. Is cooking a metaphor for my life? Or is it just a convenient displacement activity? When stuck writing or when low, I do head to the kitchen to create something new. There is a sense of fulfilment in the act of making something and a stronger one in its consumption! To me, cooking has all the elements of a complete story – interesting ingredients, the conflict of noisy spices in hot oil, the tension of ensuring the right alchemy – and then of course, the discerningly pleasurable few minutes spent in appreciating. There – a wishful metaphor for writing if ever there was one.

Television is full of (mostly male, excepting Nigella and a few others) chefs overwhelming us with colourful dishes for every season, mood and indulgence. Programmes like Come Dine with Me encourage the everyday cook to prepare a wonderful meal to a bunch of strangers over a week to win a thousand pounds. But there’s something about the act of making food that doesn’t get discussed that much.

The decision to accept once cooking credentials can have lasting implications. Learning to cook means having to do it a lot, repeatedly over a lifetime. One friend who enjoyed cooking fairly elaborate meals suddenly stopped. She switched to eating sushi and refused to entertain houseguests with food. Another gets quite stressed at the thought of actually producing a meal – as if the goings on in the kitchen could cause dangerous repercussions that are too hot to handle. Some can deny any ability at all – “I don’t cook” not can’t or won’t. Pragmatic are the ones who have a strategy to work things out – their meals are simple, substantial, healthy but unfussy.

The act of creating anything, be it food or words of wisdom can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable. In a society that revolves around erecting layer after brittle layer of protective shield, where trust and genuine feeling are perceived as weaknesses, it feels dangerous to believe with conviction. The world loves the underdog, the hardworking quiet beavers. It’s time for a little understanding (I don’t mean adulation) of the bold and expressive ones!!

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