Michael Pollan's Best Cooking Tip

Great Advice From Michael Pollan

Posted Sep 26, 2013

How many minutes did you spend cooking in the kitchen today? If you are like the average quoted by Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules and the Ominvore's Dilemma, it is likely to be around 27 minutes. This is half the time that people spent in the kitchen in 1965.  

I had the pleasure of attending Michael Pollan’s lecture at Kenyon College and chatting with him (see the photo here).  He was speaking about his newest book, Cooked: A Natural History of TransformationEssentially, he made a convincing argument as to why it is important to stop outsourcing your meals and start getting back to the kitchen.

“Cooking” is actually now defined as putting two ingredients together (yes, making peanut butter and jelly sandwich would count!).  Pollan’s explanation of “why” cooking has seen a decline was sophisticated and much more complex than the pat answer of, “women went back to work.”  It’s a variety of reasons that include shifts in agriculture, economics and the invention of more convenience foods post World War II.  Pick up his book, Cooked to read more about this.

Pollan makes an excellent point.  Many corporate kitchens make complex, tasty foods cheaper, faster and more accessible.  However, this leads to a plummet in healthy eating.  For example, have you ever cooked French Fries from scratch?  If so, you know that they are an elaborate ordeal. Messy. Difficult to make. If you cook them yourself, you would likely do so only on special occasions or for a treat—once a week or month at most. The ease at which corporate kitchens do this task makes it easy to have French fries twice a day Pollan notes.

Maybe the idea of cooking makes you a little uncomfortable or you think to yourself, "I can't cook."  If so, you aren’t alone.  I recently wrote about Mageirocophobia -- the fear of cooking and how to overcome it.  I echo many of Pollan’s thoughts about the amazing and surprising benefits that come from sitting at your own kitchen table (see EatQ:  Unlock the Weight Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence for an entire chapter on how to navigate social eating and pleasure eating).   

My favorite tip of the night by Pollan:  “Patience, practice, presence.” Cooking is an exercise in these factors. But really, isn’t this good advice for just about anything we do. Our minds often have difficulty taking pleasure in everyday, routine tasks.

Today, I would challenge you to follow Pollan’s advice. Cook something. Instead of watching one of the cooking show on TV that we all love, get in the kitchen and do it! Approach the task with patience, practice and presence. If you hear your brain say, “this is too much work” or, “hurry up” bring your mind back to the present and try to embrace the moment.  When you eat your creation, be mindful. Savor. 

Thank you Michael Pollan for an engaging and interesting talk. I can guarantee I am going to get out my wooden spoon, apron and favorite cookbook today! Although I love to cook and do so often, I won't be cooking a gourmet meal.  It will be a simple recipe.  But, I will take pleasure in the fact that my next meal won't be from a corporate kitchen. It will be a meal that will be made with my own mindful touch.

As always, Eat, Drink & Be Mindful. 

Dr. Susan Albers is a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and the author of six books on mindful eating including Eat.Q: Unlock the Weight Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence. She has been quoted in the New York Times, Self, O Magazine, Shape, Fitness and on the Dr. Oz show. www.eatq.com  

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