A few years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Michael Pollan’s Cooked, a book that’s as much a practical guide to the place food occupies in our lives as it is a critique of consumer culture and our disconnect from nature. I have always been the kind to cook only to feed myself, and though the book didn’t transform me into an enthusiastic producer of beautiful souffles and picturesque platters, it did make me think about the process of cooking being more than just a means to create fuel for sustenance.
For those few hours in the kitchen, Pollan explains, we are transformed from mere consumers of what someone else has packaged into producers, reminding us of the role of nature and others’ labour in keeping us going, and of our very place in the ecosystem—or as Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee writes for Lounge, “cooking is to make something out of (virtually) nothing”.
The acclaimed development economist who cooks dinner for his family every night is releasing his first cookbook on Monday, and has written an essay on his relationship with food for Lounge. And though he does draw connections between his work as a social scientist and his love for food, at the heart of it, cooking for him is a stress buster; he takes a free and easy approach to it, aiming—largely, it seems—to impress, bring family and friends together, and tell stories.
While Banerjee’s take on food is rather more conventional, an unusual food story we have this week is on sub-regional cuisines in India that traditionally incorporate insects, which, say experts, could prove to be a sustainable, protein-rich and affordable source of food in the future.
Cooking can be delectable, diverting or disgusting—depending on how one’s experiments in the kitchen turn out—but it always makes for a good story.
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