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I thought I’d write a blog about cooking, why I cook and why I think cooking is important.
I cook for all sorts of reasons. I’ve cooked for most of my adult life. I prefer eating food I’ve cooked. It’s that simple really. I know what’s in it, I know how I made it, and why I made it.
There can be all sorts of reasons why: …because …it’s what I fancy tonight…..and/or because I need to use up this or that…..and/or because eating with others is something I like to do and giving them really nice food pleases me…..and/or …..because I’m hungry and I want something good. Now! 🙂
One of the main reasons I started a recipe blog is because I think food is so much at the heart of things. The heart of everything. Human beings, all life on earth, and the planet itself.
There are so many issues that surround food, nutrition, health and the environment. And of course globalisation. It’s all connected. Many people have already written on these subjects far more eloquently and far more informedly than I ever could.
All I will say is that food matters. Food matters a lot.
Food is political, whether we like it or not. Some of the biggest companies in the world are food-based.
Forget governments, forget armies, forget countries; the real control and power lies with the food supply.
I’m not going too far in that direction for now, because this blog is about cooking.
I’ll start with the personal. As I think I might have mentioned already, 🙂 I like cooking. I love the smell of frying onions and freshly chopped herbs. Or the sharp fragrance of home-grown tomatoes. I enjoy savouring a freshly picked strawberry. I get thrilled by a perfectly orchestrated mix of spices. I love the creativity of cookery. The history, the traditions and the cultures of food all interest me. And I like donuts. Ever since school. We used to play a game that involved eating a donut without licking your lips. It’s really difficult 🙂 Try it sometime. Vegan donuts only!
So then there’s the social thing. Cooking for yourself, and for others is one of the best and kindest and friendliest things you can do.
Whether you live alone, or in a house with lots of people, or just somewhere in between, cooking and eating can and need to be joyful activities.
It’s nurturing…. for yourself, for other people, for family and friends. And for complete strangers.
There’s a Zen saying that goes something like this:
‘When you are alone, act as though you are with guests, and when you are with guests, act as though you are alone.’
As Zen sayings go, this one isn’t too difficult. Treat yourself in the same way you treat others, and treat others in the same way you treat yourself.
Applying this to food ….just… even if you live alone, take the time to magic up a nice plate of food. Treat yourself well. Treat everyone well.
Cooking is key.
When I say cooking, I mean the broad and wide spectrum of preparing food. Grate a carrot and drizzle it with oil and lemon juice. Mix in a few raisins. Boil a few new potatoes and dowse them in vegan butter, a pinch of salt and a scattering of fresh parsley.
Google a veggie burger recipe and have a go.
Drag out one of those dusty old Indian cookery books on the shelf, and whip up a curry (just replace the chicken with some wonderful, tasty mushrooms!).
Start the day with a Buddha Bowl packed with goodness…fresh fruit, seeds, coconut yogurt and granola + anything else you fancy!
Don’t make it too hard for yourself, if it gets too hard, that’s when we give up. Being truly kind is a complex activity sometimes.
Baking a beautiful cake can be, on occasion, one of the kindest, nicest things you can do. For yourself. For someone else. Forget calories, forget sugar-intake ….just enjoy.
Eating so much cake that you end up with diabetes is not being kind to yourself.
Becoming self-aware about what you eat involves threading your way through a minefield of information, advertising, false promises and outright lies.
There’s no one rule that fits all, someone’s super-food is someone else’s poison.
But there’s an old cliche : ‘you are what you eat.’
And preparing good food that suits you is important, crucial actually, to finding your way.
Sometimes, it becomes a healing process too.
Back to the personal, I became vegan because it suits me (and my partner) and also because I was horrified by what I saw about how we treat animals. Stuff that still haunts me, even though I don’t look much any more. So when I decided I had to make a stand against all of that, I knew that I didn’t want to do it in a stupid way. I have informed, and continued to inform myself on what makes for a healthy, varied, interesting, all-inclusive diet, that nevertheless excludes all animal products. That might seem like a contradiction, but it’s not. I’m clear in my own mind that animals are not for eating.
I’m not good with nuts, or too much processed gluten, so I have to find work arounds. But, I’m threading my way through and finding that my interest in cooking is growing every day.
And writing a recipe blog is my small way of putting it out there. Not because I’m the world’s greatest vegan cook (ha!), but because I know there are people out there (because I was one of them once) who would seriously think about becoming vegan if they could figure out how to make a decent plate of food day after day after day, without spending hours in the kitchen, without breaking the bank, and without feeling deprived. So. I guess this blog is an on-going record of my endeavours, some better than others …. (with a provisional cook’s note that it isn’t rocket science…..and there’s always the possibility of a stroke of genius!)
Keeping this blog going really helps me. It’s like creating a momentum that becomes self-sustaining.
There are two more things I want to address. As briefly as I can.
The first is the un-sustainability of the industrialised activity of growing animals and killing them brutally and against their will in slaughter houses, to fuel our excessive meat-eating habits. It’s not working. It’s contributing hugely to the damage we’re inflicting on the planet. I think we all know this really.
So that makes it not just personal, and not just social….but global.
Which is why learning to prepare and eat food in a self-aware and truly kind way, on a daily basis, has huge global implications.
It’s quite possibly the one thing that any one of us can do right now, this second, without any ado, that will help change things for the better.
The main problem is that for most of us, it means changing the habits of a lifetime. Most of us grew up eating meat, it was normalised early on. It was part of living in a loving environment. What our parents gave us to eat was given to us with love, along with admonishments to eat it up: ‘it’s good for you, it will give you strong bones.’ Usually anyway. Breaking this habit is therefore extremely hard. But not impossible.
Which leads me to my final point.
Unexpectedly, being vegan can easily give us a sense of isolation and disconnection.
We stop eating animal products because of a feeling of connectedness to all other beings on the planet, and then on a day-to-day basis we discover that we are alone in a sea of people, cafes, restaurants, cultures etc. where eating meat is normal. So it requires a special sort of determination to go on.
We need strategies.
We enquire pleasantly in a cafe if they have anything a vegan can eat. If they shrug and shake their heads we smile sweetly, and leave…. making them wonder (with any luck) if they’re missing a trick.
We carry energy bars in our pockets for emergencies.
We spend hours in the shops peering at product ingredient lists written in hopelessly small fonts, looking for animal products (they seem to be putting dried milk powder in everything these days).
We offer to bring a box of veggie burgers if a friend asks us round for a meal….
We explain that if all else fails, give a vegan an avocado, and they will be happy.
We field the irrational and defensive comments. However exasperated we become, we refrain from questioning them about why they don’t consider eating their pet dog. Depending on our mood, we may decide to refer them innocently to Gary Yourofsky: http://www.adaptt.org (without pointing out it may be a bumpy ride 🙂 )
Sometimes we know that their discomfort is a result of their own guilt. And we can recognise that, and easily find it in ourselves to be patient and understanding.
When we’re thinking of travelling, we have to consider that some places are more vegan-friendly than others.
And there’s a lot more besides.
I live in the UK where there is plenty of food in the shops. But so much of it unexpectedly conceals animal products. The other day I bought some Quorn Mince …. I didn’t check it because I never dreamt it would have egg-white in it ?? Had to return it the next day… and I’d been so looking forward to making a quick spag. bol. (Back to the drawing board on that then )
I also dimly remember someone quoting a doctor as saying ‘the supermarkets are full of food-like products.’ I think this might be true. True of some of the vegan products too. Sadly.
Just a couple more reasons why I think I would find it hard to be vegan if I didn’t cook.
And so, in an attempt to circum-navigate all of this, we discover how to connect with others who are already doing it. The one’s who’ve been doing it for years. Because as a result of them, there are now some fantastic organisations, activists, bloggers, groups, supper-clubs… and many, many, more curious people …. with whom to connect.
The Zen quote I used earlier highlights how everything goes back and forth. Kindness starts with yourself and then moves out and out like ripples, and then it comes back. Being kind to the planet is being kind to yourself. There is no separation.
So I cook. Not every day, but mostly. I cook for health, I cook for friends, I cook for the planet, and above all, I cook for peace.
Thanks for reading.
Norm Phelps :
“Veganism is simply letting compassion
guide our choice of food.”