- People tend to think that we eat only to help the body pertain its function; that there is nothing beyond that and that cooking is just a means to satiate our appetite.
- If one takes a closer look into what makes people love cooking and that there are much more involved and expressed through this form of art, philosophical aspects can arise that allow us to understand deeper parts of the self and who we truly are.
- In order to approach this topic from a philosophical point of view, five famous thinkers are quoted that help reveal the deeper meanings of one’s passion for cooking.
- Implications to the solutions proposed may include the fact that there might be people that do not think alike and do not accept the philosophers’ viewpoints, as part of justifying the writer’s flair for cooking and further analysis of the self.
Cooking can mean different things to different people. To some, it is the means to survive, while others want to see it from a more creative or even philosophical aspect. To me, it has always been an activity that I found myself completely drawn into, at any given time. I am among those that believe that besides the obvious “we cook to live," hence ensure our survival on Earth, there is much more involved. From my personal experience, depending on how seriously one takes the process of preparing food, it can tame oneself (any negative traits one might have) and allow them to dive into deeper understandings of the self. For example, cooking teaches you to be patient. You have to wait for a specified time frame for a meal to be prepared. You have to search for the right and best ingredients that will make an excellent meal. You will need to go through some preparation time before the ingredients are mixed together and are left to cook. All this requires different amounts of patience. If a meal does not end up as expected, it takes discipline and learning, so you don’t repeat the same mistake again. And, patience, learning, and discipline are all virtues that almost all known philosophers extol. For example, Confucius in Analects said “Do not be desirous of having things done quickly. Do not look at small advantages. Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly. Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished.” (Online Library of Liberty). Cooking has to be done thoroughly, among others, to give out an essence of achievement.
Listing cooking as a passion of mine, made me understand myself, what I want to eat, how, and why. Was the way I was cooking healthy? Did it meet my inner needs that went beyond the “we eat to live”? I guess the notion “we are what we eat” that I kept reading and hearing a lot over time, has some grounds. I wanted to create something that could surpass the biological needs of a human to feed himself and mean much more than that. At first it was all about me and how I could satiate my appetite. After a while, I realized that it was not enough. I wanted to change cooking into something more meaningful; something that I could actually enjoy every step of it and share my happiness with others, as I pass them on to them. This process justified ancient Greek philosopher Socrates’ viewpoint that we could create flourishing lives by following three principles: “we can know ourselves, we can change ourselves, [and] we can create new habits of thinking, feeling and acting” (Jules). My life so far has gone through these stages, and although I believe I still have a long way to experience a flourishing life (it depends on how one defines a happy life after all), I can definitely say I am on the right track. I have known myself, saw the selfishness that distinguished me, and through cooking, I changed myself, and created new habits of thinking that made me feel better than before.
Speaking of passions (and masterly handling them), another ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, has always been considered great virtues. In fact, he believed “there can be no building without a buildable,  no agency without patience, no action without passion” (Gross 98). If desires can drive people towards decline, they can also take an individual to the realization of attributes they did not know existed. For example, when I was preparing a meal, be it for myself or others I cared about, I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment. I actually sought after reward. However, this was not what it was all about, and although it took me years to understand, when I saw cooking behind my need to caress my ego and self-esteem, I realized that I had developed a passion with the proper meaning of the term. My passion was more altruistic, compared to passions we are used to, as of now. Aristotle would probably be proud. I have managed to live a full life somehow, and cooking has become a means to please myself and others around me, without waiting for their compliments. Just gathering around a table, laughing and enjoying a nice dinner that I have prepared, is, to me, a great success, that fills my soul with the ultimate pleasure. If the ancient Greeks were seeking eudemonia, there are times I have indeed found it, through cooking.
That being said; cooking also reflects who I am. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the famous Unitarian minister of the early 1800’s, once said “I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me” (Goodreads). It seems that cooking and even the slightest everyday activities that relate to food and what we chose to eat (e.g. strolling through the alleys of the supermarket) can spark thoughts on a philosophical basis. Truth is what we eat define us in a unique way. One could even say food is actually a mirror that reflects the makings of a self. The decisions we make, in regards what we want to eat, as well as the circumstances that have brought us to eat the way we do, all reflect very comprehensive and detailed images of ourselves. Moreover, cooking is a way to bring me closer with other people that matter to me, one way or another. I had read once that people will not remember what you have said, but they will always remember how you made them feel, which I had found exceptional at the time. The exact same thing happens to me when I cook. I create long-lasting memories that both the people I have cooked for and I, can always bring back to mind and relive.
With cooking, there come sets of other virtues as well. I found myself being far more hospitable and a better host, when I called friends or family members and cooked for them. I have learned to provide warmth, alongside something good to eat. Temperance and table manners followed. As mentioned in Plato’s Gorgias “the man who wishes to be happy must, it seems, pursue and practice temperance” (Angelo). Cooking, in a greater sense, cultivates people, and has transformed me from an individual that did not have the greatest drinking and eating habits to a person with fundamentally social traits that can foster enjoyment, health, and community. As a former glutton, I can now understand how I lacked restraint (it is all about handling desires as previously mentioned), how ill-willed I was, and how self-indulgent. I did not want to become an ascetic person that found no enjoyment in eating. However, knowing my ignorance, allowed me to be wiser as years passed by and most importantly, it opened new doors for me; doors that have led me in deeper understandings of who I was, whether I was really happy with who I was, if I wanted to change, why, and try to figure out ways, as to how to become better.
With more respect towards nature, and understanding that everything around me is a well-oiled machine that I need to mind when using, so it retains its balance, I made more careful choices. These decisions in regards what I eat and the way I eat it and cook it, made me feel better about me and that I was part of a greater whole - a chain- that I was responsible for pertaining as it was. That being said; cooking has become an art to me. Although short-lived, compared to painting and sculpting, it is a real art, as one can create masterpieces for the palate to savor that can provoke feelings of awe and amazement, just like when we see a beautiful painting of Da Vinci.
If the meaning of life is to find a way to a happy life (eudemonia), and know the deeper layers of oneself, then I feel proud to have gone half way towards meeting the essence of things, through cooking. Sharing and passing on feelings of happiness is something worth noting and definitely worth living for, especially if you are a creating lasting memories that can partner you in life and bring joy to your daily routine. After all, it is the small things that make us truly happy.
Angelo, Robert (2014). “Wittgenstein's Logic of Language: Plato's Gorgias - Selections – Comments”. Web. June 23, 2014 < http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/gorgias.html>
Emerson, Ralph (n.d). “Quotes about We are what we Eat”. Goodreads. Web. June 23, 2014 <https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/we-are-what-we-eat>
Gross, Daniel (2006). “The Secret History of Emotion: From Aristotle's Rhetoric to Modern Brain Science”. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226309800.
Jules, Evans (2013). “Philosophy for Life: And other dangerous situations”. Rider Publications. ISBN-10: 1846043212.
Online Library of Liberty (1915). “Confucius, The Ethics of Confucius”. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Web. June 23, 2014 <http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2065#lf1377_head_007>