My biggest and best secret for being a good cook is to only feed hungry people.
I kid you not. I suppose a lot of people think that the saying “Hunger is the best sauce” is a quaint old wives tale, or not really true, like how they used to say “Eat your mashed turnips–children in Africa are starving”. It sounds good and moralizing, but doesn’t really make sense. Well, for your information, it’s not a quaint old wives tale. The only reason why people (or, at the very least, Americans) think so is because they have so very rarely been hungry, if ever. O, they may have thought so. No doubt they even said the were starved, famished, and weak from lack of nourishment. No doubt they even believed it. But I sincerely doubt they had even begun to be hungry. More likely, they were simply no longer full. Which is nearly just as scandalous, I’m sure.
I find this double standard absurd: at wine tastings they will carefully spit out each mouth full of wine, so as not to actually ingest it, and so have their palate dulled by lack of appetite for wine. And yet, at fancy food tastings they don’t have everyone bike for half an hour before hand, or some other sort of mild but true exercise. Don’t they know that being even mildly hungry refines the tastebuds, making every flavor more full and defined? Don’t they know that an unhungry person can detect half as much subtlty as someone prepared to eat? Don’t they realize that all but the bluntest and most powerful flavors are wasted on those who have no need of food?
I’ve often wondered if that’s the reason that in fancy restaurants you can’t tell which things are supposed to be the food and which are supposed to be the decoration. Since people who aren’t really hungry can’t really taste, food of necessity gets judged by other standards. How does it look? Oo, the red looks so pretty next to the green. Look how small it is! Isn’t it just darling? How much does it cost? Ouch! Well, you know you’ve eaten good today.
No, you haven’t. You can’t eat “good” unless you need to eat.
Eating is practically America’s favorite pastime, and yet (or, perhaps, because of it) people have largely forgotten the whole purpose of eating. (Incidentally, they have also forgotten the meaning of the words “hungry” and “starving”. Starving takes a lot longer than you would think.) Eating is about satiating hunger. Eating is about filling what’s empty. Eating is about sustaining and cultivating life. You would never know that by watching their eating habits. There are the conscientious type, who obsess over counting calories. There are the food-y types, who believe in eating expensive food, no matter how gross it is. There are those who eat simply because it’s a thing to do, and not unpleasant. But none of them seem to realize that the best time to eat is when you’re hungry, and the best time to stop is when you’re not.
They cannot even begin to realize what they’re missing out on, because they haven’t been hungry. If they realized how much worse food tastes when you are simply shoveling it in to a mouth that doesn’t care—well, in all honesty, they probably wouldn’t do much different. Let’s face it, you can spit out a mouth full of wine without getting all sweaty–it’s just so much more a reasonable course of action. But not being able to discern tastes, they turn to the basest of instincts: salt, sugar, and fat. Needless to say, the conscientious type people therefore declare war on salt, sugar and fat. A pointless, and terribly faulty, argument. There is nothing wrong with salt, sugar and fat. The problem is that they eat when they are not hungry, and they don’t stop.
I pity the fancy-cook, who must try to find some way to amuse his mindlessly eating audience. He may have awards stacked up to the ceiling, but he has yet to actually cook, or have his work enjoyed. I pity the one who has been deluded into thinking the salt, sugar and fat they ingest by the handful is food, or tastes good. Addicting, yes, as the body reacts under it’s most base instincts, but not food. It cannot sustain or nourish life by itself. And it certainly does not attain to truly tasting good–it does taste, however, and if your senses are so dulled that almost anything that has a taste is said to have a good taste, you might think it meets the requirements.
To feed someone is to provide nourishment. To eat is to be nourished. If those before you are in no need of food, if you have no hunger that needs to be silenced—what is the point of food? It is diminished. It is a play thing. And your tastebuds are diminished. It is all still there, but it’s not being tasted, and it’s not being used.
Only cook for hungry people. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time. And food.