I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we like food. We like to cook, we like to eat and we like to break bread with others. We generally can’t have a meal without reminiscing about a meal in the past, or the potential of another in the future. Look at our Instagram accounts on the right side of the page. Is there anything non-consumable in there? And, you know, we have a food blog that you happen to be reading right now.
Food is a daily necessity for all of us, but some people enjoy the experience more than others. For some, thinking of what to eat is torture, and they long for the meal pill from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For others, each step from coming up with the idea to savoring the flavor of a meal is a joy. Lots of us fall somewhere in between, but last year, I decided to explore this a little bit.
A year ago I starting doing a Masters program here in Barcelona, a significant part of which is a thesis on a topic of my choice. I’m not a betting man, but I’ll give you one guess what my topic was. If you said food, you are correct. Extra credit if you guessed cooking, which is more correct.
The reasons I wanted to focus on cooking can be distilled down to exactly two things: health statistics in the US, and Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked.
For one of my presentations I made the slide below compiling some heath statistics from, to name a few, the National Institute of Health, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( a .pdf can be found here).
These numbers gave me pause. For reference, according the US Census Bureau there are about 316 million people in the US. To say that one-third of the adult population in the US is obese (i.e. a Body Mass Index of 30+) is to say that nearly 77 million of our countrymen and woman are dangerously unhealthy and are at high risk things for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer.
Apart from the health effects and costs for the individual (and family), these statistics call into light the health of our nation. As a guy who was in the Navy for 7+ years, I wonder who will be capable of defending us and protecting us? Who will be our firefighters, police officers, paramedics, emergency services and serve in our armed forces if two-thirds of us are obese or overweight?
The obesity epidemic (that is what they are calling it now) is surely a combination of many factors, but as Michael Pollan puts it in his book, our food, and the industrialization of our food production, is a very big culprit. Corporations, he says, “cook very differently from how people do…They tend to use much more sugar, fat, and salt than people cooking for people do.”
I don’t mean to paint a grim picture because, ultimately this a story of hope. If high levels of sugar, fat and salt from industrial foods are to blame for our health, then all we need to do is to cut down on, or eliminate them.
The easiest and simplest way to do this is to cook for ourselves. Skip the complicated stuff, the calorie counting, the”fat-free,” the fad diets, the cleanses and the deprivation. If we do nothing else other then cook more often, we will be doing a whole lot better than we are today.
I also don’t mean to over-simplify the issue, because there are lots of moving parts and factors involved in making a meal, but I think it’s a good and manageable place to start.
This is what inspires me, and this is what I built my thesis around. More on that coming soon, and I’ll explain how I ended up with #cookingcouplets.
If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, you would probably also enjoy:
- Cooked by Michael Pollan. I’ve discussed it here, but the whole book is fascinating. The intro is available for free download if you follow the link above.
- Fed Up– Katie Couric is one of the executive producers of this documentary, and many big names in health and food make appearances.
- The Weight of the Nation– an HBO series covering the obesity epidemic. The whole thing is available for viewing online.