Nourishment is destiny


By Chef Stephanie Michalak, Turner Farm Culinary Manager

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer, politician, and epicurean, wrote The Physiology of Taste: Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy in December of 1825. Much of the book is an intense, yet cheeky, reflection on the eating and dining culture of the 18th century and reveals overall beliefs of the Enlightenment period. Much of the book’s content is antiquated, but Brillat-Savarin makes some poignant remarks that hold truth to this day. Most of us know this work via the famous quote “tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are.” This is from the first section of his book entitled “aphorisms of the professor,” so perhaps there’s no question as to why it still has some validity.

In this same section Brillat-Savarin states that “the destiny of nations depends on how they nourish themselves” as well as “to invite people to dine with us is to make ourselves responsible for their well-being for as long as they are under our roofs.” Using our modern framework to reflect on these we can see that they certainly still hold truth and perhaps are ideas that we may not put enough thought towards. However, the one statement from this book that I want to explore with you is: “We learn to be cooks, but we must be born knowing how to roast.” Essentially, while we may learn cooking techniques and skills throughout life, we all inherently know when things are prepared well.

Keeping in mind that everyone knows how to enjoy good food, we all have the capability to cook well if we use our senses. Cooking (and eating) isn’t just how something tastes. Obviously, taste is important and we all have different palates so the definition of ‘good food’ can create a wide variety of end results, but what something smells, feels, looks, and even sounds like equally impacts how much we enjoy food. We’ve all heard the saying that we eat with our eyes first and I truly hope you have experienced the joyous crackle of ripping into the crust of a still warm piece of bread or the crunch and snap of a fresh green bean from a garden. By using our senses to cook we can better create vibrant, nourishing foods without as much anxiety or by clinging to recipes.

Embracing the process of learning how to cook (rather than focusing on the end result) can help us better understand ourselves and what makes us unique, but if we have not had the time or exposure to cooking as a creative outlet rather than an obligation, it can be immensely difficult to retrain ourselves to cook in a way that can be both freeing and joyful. Most of our culinary classes at Turner Farm attempt to illuminate this process by showing that even if a dish is complicated: it is just a series of simple steps that anyone who is paying attention to what they are doing can accomplish. However, it is difficult to make any long-standing life altering cooking habits in only a two-hour class. This takes time, an open mind, and practice.

Our upcoming five-week healthy cooking series is perfect for a more immersive process because even if you are a good cook already, it is immeasurably helpful to examine fundamental cooking competencies that may just make you feel more confident and creative in your own kitchen.   

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