My friend Edu is 28 years old and works remotely as a data engineer. He just became independent and I asked him how he was going to manage with food. He explained to me that he had found some shake powders that contain all the nutrients needed to replace a full meal. A kind of astronaut food for workers who don’t have time to cook. “I will not use it every day, but a dinner or a meal can save you.”
The rhythms of life are increasingly accelerated and work not only takes up most of our time, but also the energy to be able to take care of ourselves properlywhich is why more and more companies dedicated to the management of our food are emerging that are in charge of sending our purchases home, offering us weekly subscriptions to homemade food containers or inventing products to replace a normal meal with some powders.
The current production system has optimization as one of its main logics: getting the fastest for the lowest price, something that goes diametrically against the logic of the kitchen where flavor is achieved thanks to time. Spain is a country with a culinary tradition recognized worldwide, and together with Italy, it is The European country that spends the most hours in the kitchen with an average of 6.8 hours a week, which is why the pre-cooked food companies do not sell so much a futuristic idea of modernity, as happens with cleaning products, but rather they disguise themselves as tradition. The homemade food that used to be everyday is now sold to us as pre-cooked products that promise a trip to childhood by reproducing “grandma’s kitchen”, extolling the family culinary tradition while encouraging us to let’s forget to cook.
This collective oblivion supposes not only the death of a generation of chefs and cooks and their recipes, but also of a lifestyle that allowed us to dedicate enough time and affection for the kitchen so that it would have a social, identity and even spiritual function. The oral transmission of recipes from generation to generation is what has shaped our gastronomic culture, but if this chain is broken and we turn eating into a mere mechanical process in order to continue producing, the recipes that our grandchildren inherit will no longer be those of our grandmothers, but the precooked dishes, home delivery, frozen food from the supermarket and, hopefully, that of some American tiktoker from which some ingredients prohibited in the European Union must be removed.
“If we turn eating into a mere mechanical procedure in order to continue producing, the recipes that our grandchildren inherit will no longer be those of our grandmothers, but rather pre-cooked meals, home-delivered food, frozen foods from the supermarket and, hopefully, those of some American tiktoker“
eat through the eyes
Although this gastronomic accelerationism seems to be definitely changing our way of eating, culinary television programs are an audiovisual product on the rise that are contributing to the popularization of cooking, awakening in millions of viewers the desire to prepare their own food: according to a study, 48% of Spaniards have felt inspired to cook and replicate recipes they see on screen. Whether in the format of a cooking contest like ‘MasterChef’ or as a Netflix documentary series like ‘Cooked’, the kitchen has been reintroduced in our homes as the Arguiñano programs did in their daywith the addition that now they also appeal to a younger audience and it is not uncommon to hear “cook” in response to what the little ones want to be when they grow up.
But the success of this new trend is not only thanks to TV, but also to social networks like Instagram or Tik Tok, in which videos of easy homemade recipes are one of the most popular content. They bring the kitchen closer to those who do not know how to fry an egg, demystifying the idea that cooking is something really difficult and that requires large amounts of time. Lúa is 25 years old, she is a graphic designer and she started uploading her kitchen photo archive to her Instagram. Your account @luxurygelatto It is an example of how the tradition of cooking can coexist with the consumption of images on social networks. “I follow many kitchen Instagram accounts, but most are focused on sharing recipes and I am more interested in the aesthetic part of the matter. It can range from things that I cook, to packagings from the supermarket that I find cool, movie scenes in which food has some kind of role… I’m interested vindicate the plastic value of food and see its applications in art, fashion, photography…”
Regaining popular interest may be the first step, but we must not confuse the viewer with the cook. Gastronomy and cooking accounts are not only consumed as a tutorial, but also as pleasant content that gives us peace and makes us feel good, a comforting digital experience that you can feel while you eat some noodles instants in three minutes, the equivalent of take a nap while you watch the bike ride.
The benefits of cooking: health, money and love
No matter how successful the precooked dish on duty is that we overheat during our lunch break at work or many recipe accounts that we follow on Instagram without encouraging ourselves to make them, if we eat without cooking we continue to lose its beneficial effects that are not only associated with better nutrition and lower cost, but also have positive psychological effects.
Michael Pollan, American journalist and writer, is one of the main references of the movement “slow food”, a response to current consumption models based on fast food that seeks to recover culinary tradition through home cooking and awareness of what we eat. “Just by going back to cooking, you declare your independence from the fast food culture. As soon as you start cooking, you start thinking about ingredients, you start thinking about plants and animals and not about a microwave, and you realize how through such a simple act your diet sees a significant improvement” affirms the writer.
In his book “Cooking: A Natural History of Transformation”, Pollan exposes the contradiction of a scenario in which the kitchen has reached a popularity at the level of cinema or music while we cook less and less. Through a journey from the primitive origins of cooking to the present day, the chef and activist highlights the importance that food processing has had for the human species, both for increasing their brain capacities and for socialization during times waiting for cooking and how the alteration of this order puts the survival of our culture and the planet itself at risk.
This social dimension is one of the attractions that the kitchen has for Lúa: “I think that the kitchen has become something very important for me because it has served as glue for my social gatherings. I don’t really remember how or why it started, but I quickly took on the role of the person who is in charge of cooking in my group of friends. On many occasions it has become the excuse to meet with them. I believe that if it is given the importance it deserves, cooking makes everything take on a more ceremonious tone, and I like to think that my friends and I have certain traditions around what we eat or cook depending on the occasion. Needless to say, it’s very comforting to feed the people you love.”
In a world where the only two possibilities seem to be to produce or consume, dedicating time to cooking is practically an anti-system act since it puts us and those who cook at the center, a practice as old as the human being that now appears as an obstacle in the middle of a work routine. “As I imagine happens to many, or almost all of us, I spend many hours of my day watching content on social networks. Cooking requires a lot of concentration and organization, and for me it has become the activity that helps me the most to get out of that loop, almost always exasperating, of continuous consumption of stimuli”, says Lúa.
“I spend many hours of my day watching content on social networks. Cooking requires a lot of concentration and organization, and for me it has become the activity that helps me the most to get out of that loop, almost always exasperating, of continuous consumption of stimuli” -Lúa @luxurygelatto-
The brand’s manifesto for replacement milkshakes emphasizes this idea of the kitchen as an inconvenience on their website: “Eating nutritious food is vital to our health and happiness, but our busy lives can make that challenging. So what we need is a nutritionally complete and convenient meal.” But the challenge should not be to give up cooking and resign ourselves to replacing food with tasteless powders. The real challenge should be to regain control over what we eat, that enough time to eat is guaranteed in our jobsreconcile ourselves with the kitchen and be self-sufficient when it comes to feeding ourselves, get together again to cook and eat with our friends and family and thus maintain what makes us human.
Carlos Helmets (Madrid, 1994) studied Journalism and Cinematography in Madrid. He has collaborated in different radio programs and in digital media such as Vice, Mondo Sonoro, Yahoo! or TiU. He is now a scriptwriter in the Gen Playz program (RTVE).
“Forget about cooking” or how our rhythms of life are ending culinary tradition