Kissing Does Not Last Long, but Cooking Does
The Importance of Home Cooking
Modern enthusiasm for gastronomy has been much heated by TV programs and newspaper articles. Famous actors and writers proudly talk about their 'special delicacies' of their own cooking. Some zealots haunt those restaurants known for having prepared lunch for the visiting Emperor, using the best cooking material in the country or fabricating recipes kept as top secret, for example.
It is more than fifty years since World War Two ended and the Japanese are enjoying the unprecedented luxuries for everything, especially eating stuff. The old saying repeated by our mothers, 'If you leave even a grain of rice in your bowl, your eyes will be blinded.' is now as good as dead, and children would ridicule the remark.
Today, some of the young people, and middle-aged women pretending to be ladies do not mind throwing away a large amount of their meals. The fear of getting fat forces them to refrain from having rice and other starches, and yet they are eager to find something very good to eat, which is more often than not rich in saturated fat. This is simply because they are bored in daily life just as the emperors and kings used to be on the crest of their prosperity. Both have and had reached the saturating point of luxurious life.
When one utters that it tastes good, it is greatly influenced by freshness, shape and color, and what not. But what is largely forgotten is one's own appetite. Appetite, or hunger is the best recipe, as the saying goes. Today, affluence has made sophisticated cooking procedure substituted for healthy hunger. Once one finds better taste he can no longer get back to the humbler dishes.
The great influences of American dishes have devastated the world cuisine scene. In Paris, where people used to stubbornly object to taking in foreign food, McDonald hamburger stands are filled with youngsters, to the chagrin of old Frenchmen. Conservative gastronomic patriots are furious, but there is nothing to do but to let their grandchildren devour fast food originated in USA. But it is reported that first-rate chefs are invited to cook at schools and try to show the children the genuine French cooking. French people never seem to lose their passion for eating!
Mass production has apparently caused eating stuff to be less diversified. But what is more worrying is the eating habit of the young people, who, since they were weaned, have been rigidly conditioned by processed food specially tasted for them. In spite of strong clamor against 'junk food' ( containing too much calories, but scarce in minerals and vitamins ), they are strongly attracted by the 'artificial' fast food.
What is the ideal condition for eating? The first priority lies in freshness. If you have our cooking materials provided within the radius of 100 km or less, your breakfast table, for example, will be spread with vegetables picked early that morning and fishes just transported from the nearby port. There used to be peddlers in those good days, bearing huge luggage on their back and selling fresh products door to door. Now they are gone.
The second is variety. The more diverse food we have, the better. If we have more than 20 variety of food at a time, it would be best for our health. The amount of food is of secondary importance, much less the sophistication of complicated menus.
Nowadays, people exhausted under stressful circumstances, who are only too worried about their phisical and mental condition, tend to believe that taking in the special nourishment such as garlic, leek and scallion is the only way to restoring the energetic life; they expect them to have miraculous effects.
But as we see in the instances of vegetarians, man can't live solely on vegetables, or meat or fish. Since we are born omnivorous, it is ridiculous to live on limited variety of food, as many religious devotees forced themselves to do so. We can see many names of young monks engraved on tombstones adjacent to the old temples founded more than 300 years ago. They were, pitifully enough, obliged to have only a bit of rice and vegetables; they must have died young owing to malnutrition or tuberculosis.
On the other hand, Chinese people have tried to enlarge the whole category of edibles. This is due not only to the emperor's whimsical appetite but to the sheer poverty of the people that forced them to seek alternatives far and wide to the existing foodstuff. They tried everything; eye balls, anus, crest, testicles, worms and even spiders(?). They say food and medicine have the same origin. They were aware of the importance of variety of diet.
Nothing is more urgently needed for people leading a single life today than cooking by themselves, and above all, using natural products. Instant food, TV dinners and fast food are formerly invented for serving people under extraordinary circumstances, such as in outdoor life and hospitals. Today people are not hesitant in using them in their daily life. Once such dishes become routine, it is almost impossible to get back to the good old styles.
As the large family and traditional community are dissolved, more and more eatables are losing diversity. There used to be thousands of different misos, shouyus, wines and apple pies in literally every village in the good old days. Cookie baked by Tom's mother was quite different from Mary's. Nowadays children go to supermarkets to get the same old Nabisco's. What a monotonous world we are living in now! Processed foods are not only lack in freshness, diversity and nutrition but sometimes in love.
Psychologically speaking, meals prepared by beloved partner is the best for the health, mental as well as physical. The saying, as a title of this article, has it, 'Kissing does not last long, but cooking does.' Preparing and serving food is an indispensable form of communication, no less important than language. The warmth and smell of tasty vituals may be the most efficient vehicle of love and affection.
Even if you cook by yourself, cutting, boiling, baking themselves gives satisfaction of being independent of mass producing food industry, and also fills your heart which, otherwise may be suffering from solitude. Even the best seasoned dishes will not be nutritious if you are under stressful conditions, worried, angry or sad, for example,
Home cooking may mitigate the negative factors detrimental to digestion. Therefore, smiling and chatting are one of the best appetizers. Otherwise, we would be no more than broilers regularly fed day and night in a small cage.
With the increase of complexity of modern society, we are apt to forget what a hearty meal is or used to be all about. No one can deny that having three meals or more a day is one of the greatest pleasures in our life, even though we are not gourmands. In the age of machinery this seems to be increasingly ignored, or rather neutralized.
That is why the comprehensive effects of freshness and variety of materials, maintaining relationship with a cook and relaxing, wholesome atmosphere must be counted and assessed all over again. We are all human beings and this is the very reason why steaming casserole prepared by a member of your beloved family on a cold winter night will give you a full contentment.
First Written in July 1987