I’ve been interested in cooking and nutrition since I was 17. When I majored in nutrition in college, I thought there was something defective. I felt that nutrition more than 10 years ago was too conventional, which focuses mainly on figures, calories and scientific findings. Although they are important, it is not the kind of nutrition that I was searching for. So, after one semester, I dropped my nutrition course and pursued a career in hotel management and then formalized my studies in culinary arts. But a few years later, I became interested in holistic nutrition (and then some) when my father was diagnosed with cancer.
Food and nutrition are inseparable. Today and beyond, the focus on nutrition is not just based on rigid information but it’s about embracing an integrated and profound holistic point of view where a healthy body is connected with a healthy environment. It is natural nutrition where quality nutrients are more important than counting calories and whole foods are superior to processed foods.
Whole foods are foods that are close to its natural state, without additional processing and refining. They are natural, live, and of good quality. These also mean that they are not genetically modified and irradiated, and they are free from chemicals, preservatives, hormones and antibiotics. When people including professional cooks and chefs choose to cook with these qualities, it is called holistic cooking (in my own personal opinion). And when food is used as a medicine, I call it therapeutic cooking.
Holistic cooking employs a new food culture that supports wholesomeness, nutrition, freshness and flavor. Raising awareness of good food and food values generates partaking in protecting the environment, treating animals humanely, protecting our soil and respecting the farmers. This elates to using and cooking whole, nutrient dense foods that are grown organically and locally as much as possible.
There is an immense concern about whether to buy local produce that is conventionally grown or buying organic produce that is produced overseas or visa versa. I certainly do believe that organic is way much better for us and for the environment but there should also be room for flexibility in this realistic world. Sometimes you have to weigh the situation that not everyone can afford to buy organic ingredients. As much as possible I buy produce that are locally grown except for imported grains, legumes, nuts and seeds as I’m starting to love working with them.
As a cook, I have the right to know where food comes from, what the plant looks like, how they are grown and harvested as well as knowing what kind of feed is the chicken or the pig having. Actually, learning how to cook should also start in the garden or the farm. Although culinary schools teach you the basic skills and fundamentals in becoming a better cook and eventually a successful chef, being involved with food sustainability and agriculture is equally significant. I understand that chef instructors have a big influence to reach out to their students, not only in developing their skills and character as a professional cook but also in persuading them about the holistic point of view of cooking.
I believe that my cooking is going in this direction. I was telling myself that I should have done this a long time ago but even if this information was provided to me when I was 17 years old, I think I won’t be ready to accept it wholeheartedly.
I regret not having to actively partake in global consciousness when I was still in cooking school but it’s not yet too late to be a part of the solution. Besides, in food and cooking, the health of an individual and the health of the environment are holistically balanced and harmonized in palate, plate and planet.