Cooking and the Joy

A couple weekends ago, we saddled up 3 families and drove across the big island to Tofino for a surfing getaway retreat weekend at a chalet we often rent. With plans to create some delicious meals, Jamie was sure to bring his copy of the iconic book The Joy of Cooking (the chicken chasseur was devine, by the way). One night, I picked it up and became absolutely fascinated by the seemingly endless well of food knowledge.

No other cookbook I’ve known about is as encyclopedic or comprehensive about food as Joy.  The recipes are written in a fluid easy to understand way, unlike the common format of listing ingredients then listing instructional steps. I’ve learned so much about cooking in general, because whenever I open the book (and most often its not even to follow a recipe), there are paragraphs explaining a bit about each little method, custom, history, trick, or variation of a given dish or type of food.  It’s been revised 8 times since it’s original 1931 release. Upon returning home, I immediately set out to find my own copy, and ended up with the 6th edition (1975) found at the literacy center downtown Nanaimo for an unexpected 25% discount. Another reason I friggin love it, is because it’s so big that when you open it, it stays flopped open to your page when placed on a surface.

It seems that my affinity for cooking has taken really long to develop, but after watching the following video, I realize it’s not just me who’s been misled.

Trending on Facebook now with the heading “After watching this, you’ll never eat McDonald’s french fries again!”, this video of Michael Pollan’s short form talk does a great job at summarizing a pretty substantial concept: cooking and our relationship with food is important to understand. I first heard of Pollan’s work when he was a guest on Democracy Now! talking about the book he wrote while actually learning how to cook. It’s called Cooked: a natural history of transformation and it’s on my list of most wanted books (along with the latest edition of Joy, hint hint). Brilliantly, it’s made up of 4 parts: Fire, Water, Air, Earth – describing his own new understandings of cooking with each of these elements.

Fire: creatures of the flame
Water: a recipe in seven steps
Air: the education of an amateur baker
Earth: fermentation’s cold fire

Here is a video review of Cooked