Art of cooking – (citra-sakapupa-bhakshya-vikara-kriya)

Oct 9, 2014 by

Art of cooking – (citra-sakapupa-bhakshya-vikara-kriya)

“A work of art,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “is something made or transformed by man that functions aesthetically in man’s experience.”

Obviously, the only way it can function aesthetically in our experience is if it makes an impact upon our senses.

And the more senses it makes an impact upon, the greater its potential impact.
And the greater the impact, the greater the art form.

Logically then, potentially the greatest art form must be cooking. For cooking-the creation and making of a great dish-does some thing no other art form does. It makes an impact upon not just one of our senses (as a painting does) or two of our senses (as a live performance of music does); it makes an impact upon all five.cooking1

Every culture has a unique food philosophy. The way we cook our food tells a lot about who we are. Put together a group of Bengalis and the conversation will invariably veer towards food accompanied by spirited repartee involving the subtleties of Bangal (East Bengal) and Ghoti (West Bengal) cuisines. Factor in the cultural diversity of India and we could have similar debates played out a million times over. Palates may be formed by socio-cultural influences, but the act of cooking itself is a spiritual pursuit. Whether one is cooking daily for loved ones or preparing langar for thousands in a gurdwara or donning the chef’s apron occasionally over weekends, cooking can elevate the soul to great heights. It is precisely for this reason that the experience inside a Michelin-starred kitchen could be heavenly bliss.cooking2

Food, cooking, and whatever related to these themes are usually considered as an art because food is an everyday item that has a wide meaning for all people. Food can be considered as an art; for example: the decoration of a food, the way a food is constructed in the plates, or even the way many different foods are being mixed in order to create a new food. Sometimes even people consider the arrangement of plates in a table as an art. This is called Table Art. Brillat-Savarin in his book, “The physiology of taste” states that cooking is the oldest of all arts. He says that Adam was born hungry and even a new born child first looks for become feed by his nurse right after he comes to new world. He also believes that cooking and food is the finest art that has had the most influence on humans’ civilization.

Food is one of the fewest things in whole world that almost everyone becomes satisfied with. When people eat, a kind of satisfaction and pleasure make them happy. And whatever can make a person happy could be considered as an art. Gastronomy is the knowledge and science of whatever related to human’s nourishment. Savarin believes that Gastronomy is a part of cookery. The way the dishes are adapted and arranged in a table and the way a food is tasted make the food as an art work. Savarin by his philosophical look explain the joy and sadness that a food can cause by its taste. He says that taste gives us the greatest joy because eating is the only thing which is not followed by regret.cooking4

Food is a universal necessity. But it is only human beings who endeavour to transform food into something more. Several archaeologists and evolutionary biologists contend that cooking was, and still is, crucial to our evolution. Not only did it stimulate mastery over fire and necessitated innovation in tool making, but by eating cooked food, we were able to increase our energy output for other creative pursuits. As primitive hunter-gatherer societies developed into more sedentary ones, cooking became a social activity. The preparing and sharing of food came to define relationships within families as well as in the larger community. Food became central to community celebrations. What would Eid be without sewai, Christmas be without cakes and Pongal without payasam?

Food is inextricably linked to occasions and memories. Even a simple meal of dal and rice can transport one to the sandy beaches of Sri Lanka if that’s what you now associate it with. An episode on late celebrity chef Keith Floyd’s food show – where a sea-side fish recipe involved wrapping a tuna in banana leaves and burying it in a sand pit with hot coal – can stay with you forever. Food has an incredible quality to push a person’s happy buttons. The connection also works in reverse. When you cook something, your state of mind gets reflected on the plate. Anger, melancholy, ecstasy, serenity, sloth, lust and pride can all be ‘transported’ through food, intentionally or otherwise.cooking3

All this makes cooking the most versatile art form and in a way, a spiritual activity. Unlike other artistic mediums, it has the capacity to engage all the senses. Chefs have long known that the presentation of a dish is as important as the taste, aroma and texture of what is served. However, recent research shows that sound, too, is a critical element in creating the right dining experience. Heston Blumenthal of the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant in Berkshire, England, has a curious dish on his menu called ‘Sound of the Sea’. It features a collection of seafood served on a bed of sand-like tapioca resembling the seashore. But what makes the dish really unique is that diners are encouraged to listen to the sound of waves playing on an iPod while savouring this culinary treat. Blumenthal came up with the idea after research at Oxford University proved that sound could influence and enhance the sense of taste.cooking5

What this means is that a chef’s creative canvas knows no bounds. He has the means to play with the senses, serenade them and often, lead them gently to a higher plane. A sensitive chef’s meal preparation can become a conduit to blissful tabula rasa, a state of blankness where the mind leaves behind the known and is open to the will of one’s creative muses; a state that enables a journey towards the rediscovery of the self and creation of new perspectives. It is recognition of this power that makes cooking a truly spiritual and devotional experience. Just as prayers transmit our spiritual energy to the cosmos to be rejuvenated, a part of us gets devolved in the food we prepare – our personality, our wishes and joys – in continuance of the cycle of life. Cooking is perhaps the highest form of meditation, a divine ritual that is key to nourishing the soul and balancing the cosmic forces of yin and yang.

Reference :
art of cooking essay

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