Anthony Bourdain Essay: Cooking Food Well Means Everything and Nothing

August 5, 2010

Bourdain’s Medium Raw Essay Contest

Read my Medium Raw challenge essay: Cooking Well Means Everything and Nothing

Cooking Food Well Means Everything and Nothing

Cooking food well is but another of life’s equal but opposite gravitational pulls. As with so much in life, cooking well means everything and nothing.  

Cooking well holds no allegiance to borders or boundaries and is a language unto itself. A well cooked meal can be deftly managed or thuggishly muscled, either path resulting in an original offering of scrumptiousness. If you can cook well, folks from Nebraska to Norway might be singing your praises, and it doesn’t matter if you are a one-trick-meat-sauce-pony or the thickly accented expert relegated to huckstering pans. From the beginning there has been one unflagging goal, whether by happy accident or professional process, when one cooks well the sum of the ingredients, recipe, technique and effort should always be greater than the gathering of fire, metal, ounces and pounds.

If others consider you skeevy, creepy or mean, it all goes out the window when you can cook well, because cooking well scores high on lists made by list-makers. Through this skill-set alone, you can almost mollify the adolescent plague of self esteem bloodletting, lay a sweaty hand on the tiller and find yourself a place in the world. Doors of opportunity will open if you show-off for family and friends or even better, a wide circle of acquaintances and strangers. If talent, skill and will converge, with minimal derailments wrought by temptation, you might ascend to the designation of mastercraftperson or even be anointed as an artisan. If you are lucky or wise you might parlay your experiences into fame, fortune and a lasting legacy.

Cooking well is a means to quench a hunger and thirst that extends far beyond food and drink, feeding the human desire for exploration, socialization, and celebration. Cooking well can be an honest day/night of work, a neighborly gesture, a familial obligation, a prelude to romance, or merely servicing a jonzin’ hoard of foodies.

However, cooking well means nothing to someone on the brink of starvation – cat food, fast food, and leather shoelaces might all look pretty tasty. Cooking well means nothing to the praying parents of an ill child or to the partner of a service person who has just fallen for freedom in some far away land.

Cooking well is unnecessary when one is anticipating a bite fresh from nature’s bounty – - a tomato from the vine, a peach from the tree and honey from the comb. And then there are the moments that transcend the preparation, moments that render all thoughts of cooking results irrelevant – The last time Grandma made stale bread French toast for you, Dad’s burnt BBQ chicken when Dads not around anymore, and Mom’s greasy meatloaf that you’d trade almost anything for, just to have one more chance to sit down and eat it with her.

Cooking well has skilled players, fans, vested interests and paying customers. It is a conduit to many things real and fanciful. Like all contact sports, it means everything and nothing.

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