My first foray into cooking quickly turned into a cooking failure.
And by “cooking” I mean heating up a can of chicken noodle soup on the stove.
I don’t remember how old I was, but my brother was teaching me what to do. He was the soup making expert, because he wouldn’t eat anything that looked like a fruit or vegetable. So he pretty much lived off a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (one of God’s greatest creations) and Campbell’s bean and bacon soup.
When I tried to pour it from pot to bowl, I didn’t expect the handle to be so hot (insert your own joke here), and I dropped every last bit of it down the sink.
I remember thinking then, in between thoughts of New Kids on the Block: I’ll never be able to cook. I’m terrible at it, and it’s not even fun.
Somewhere after college, I realized that I enjoyed cooking immensely. And not just heating up a can of soup.
While it took me a while to get on that bandwagon, I didn’t realize the benefits to cooking your own food.
“Cooking is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. What matters most is not any particular nutrient, or even any particular food: it’s the act of cooking itself,” Pollan said. “People who cook eat a healthier diet without giving it a thought. It’s the collapse of home cooking that led directly to the obesity epidemic.”
What can also get lost when we aren’t cooking? Community.
Obviously, we can go out to eat with people. But cooking with or for someone and sharing food takes your connection to a different level. You might forget a meal out with friends, but you don’t ever forget when a person cooked for you. There’s some fundamental difference there.
Think of how often God stresses community in the Bible. Much of the Bible is a story of one community, the Jewish people. In Acts, we read the early church gathered and shared meals every day. He built us to need community, and often times we see that community strengthened in the context of sharing a meal.
Passover is a meal people have shared with family and friends for thousands of years. For Christians, taking communion connects us to the beginning of our faith, a remembrance of the meal Jesus shared with His disciples as one of his final acts before dying on the cross. He ate meals with people most did not want to be seen with (Mark 2: 13-17), and He did that to make a point.
Honestly, how many of the problems and misunderstandings could we solve if we would take the time to share a meal with someone?
In the first chapter their book Food: A Culinary History by Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montanari they discuss how cooking food changed civilization from the earliest times.
“The social impact of cooking was no doubt more immediately apparent than were its nutritional implications. It encouraged commensalism, or eating with others, and led to a greater division of labor within the group, all of whose members participated in a regular round of activities associated with eating. The result was more complex group organization.”
If we make time for cooking, we’re making time to strengthen our community, to strengthen our relationships with our family, friends and maybe some people we never wanted to put in either of those two categories. We’re making time to live in a way that God intended for us.