The fast-paced high technology lifestyle has brought us many advancements but not without a price. Many of us climbing up the corporate ladder now lead more solitary lives compared to those before us, despite progress in communication technology. And with our ever-changing surrounding, it can leave us jaded – unable to cope with the constant feeling of unfamiliarity coupled with social detachment.
A number of pleasures in life can evoke memories and a sense of comfort such as a treasured book, a familiar place or a favourite song, but none other can coax the same or even come close to the effects of nourishment. And while sustenance is known to play a role in comfort, it is possible that food has more than one appeal for the emotionally undernourished. But why food? To answer this, let us go into a little bit of culinary history.
Modern culinary was said to have been developed some time in the 19th century, but we know that kings and common men alike much further back in history treasured their cooks just as any of their craftsmen. Auguste Escoffier, said to be “the chef of kings and the king of chefs” developed and refined many of the things still used in our kitchens today whether we realize it or not. His refined cooking techniques – also derived originally from those before him – are still in use, such as the likes of basic mother sauces and desserts such as the Peach Melba. His most significant contribution to the culinary world is elevating the profession of cooks and introducing discipline as well as the “brigade rank”, still widely used in professional kitchens today. His book, Le Guide Culinaire – first published in 1903 in French and translated into English in 1907 – is a major reference on cooking in present times.
Many industries have changed with time and while there have been technological developments in modern kitchens as well, no other industry has been served so well by its rich history in the modern world. Recipe books published decades or even a century ago are still in print and used currently. We can find that the food we eat today was from a recipe or technique developed some time a hundred years ago by cooks and chefs.
With all the technological advancements, we have come up with quick solutions to provide sustenance to cater to our hectic lifestyles. But when one has a choice between canned soup or a homemade broth of wild mushrooms, without a doubt the latter is preferred. Sure the former is actually more “hi-tech” because of its prolonged shelf-life, convenience and accessibility but we all know simply that the latter tastes better. And better taste in turn contributes to better feelings, better well-being. It is also good to know that our food did not come processed by machines from a factory, but made with human touch and skill.
Furthermore, what we don’t realize sometimes is that this recipe, this form of comfort has been developed by those before us – its techniques preserved in recipe books and by inheritance from our previous civilizations’ ability to put together ingredients and create a meal. Thus it is impossible to say that when one attains pleasure from sustenance, be it by one’s own means at home or in a lonely bistro, one is ever truly alone. The culinary arts are the link that connects us all not only presently, but to our predecessors as well.
All this can be summarized with the following quote:
“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers” – Laurie Colwin, writer (1944 – 1992)
I take comfort in that.
Safinaz Yazed is currently pursuing Bachelor in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management. She likes her people like how she likes her chocolate – warm, or indulgently hot.