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(post, Cynthia Lair)
When I ask my students at Bastyr University to feel the cookie dough in order to tell when the mixture is right, they ponder the words but have no idea what they mean. When they ask if “this” part of the fennel is OK to eat, and I suggest that they see if their fingernail glides easily in or not to test for tenderness, I am met with the same alien stares. Touching the food, especially before eating it, seems odd. And if I talk about knowing when to take the cookies out of the oven by smell, they seem to think I am some breed of tantric chef — or have never heard of a timer. Because I teach in a nutrition department, I am working with students whose minds have been filled with visions of invisible polyphenols. They need the one required cooking class we offer to bring them back to earth. We all need to get back into the sensuousness of food, the fun, the joy. Surely every bite can’t and shouldn’t be about a calorie, a gram, a fatty acid, or potential bone health. We've got to start trusting that foods that have very few ingredients, no boxes, and loads of flavor are the ticket to joy and health. [%image reference-image float=right width=300 caption="Shiny black beans."] Consider the fun and satisfaction of list(compact). Smashing garlic Cracking an egg Dicing celery Touching list(compact). The tight buds of local broccoli The smooth surface of baby bok choy The flexibility and fuzziness of a peach Smelling list(compact). Sautéing mushrooms in butter Chai simmering on the stove Cumin and coriander when it hits hot ghee Seeing list(compact). The juicy curves of the raspberry Happy yellow corn kernels Shiny black beans Hearing list(compact). Garlic sizzle in olive oil The knife mincing herbs on the cutting board * The soft simmer of reducing balsamic vinegar No box decorated with a cheerful giraffe and empty health promises can stand up this natural beauty. At my best, I don’t see cooking as a chore or as a nutritional science project; I see it as a release from all the thoughts and emotions that drive each overloaded day. It's a chance to relax my mind and rely solely on my senses to entertain me.