Oh Michael Pollan, you’ve done it again.

For ages, listed under “interests” in my Facebook profile has been “learning to cook (recipes anyone?)”.  I wrote it in when I was first learning to cook a few years ago, and because I feel like I’m in perpetual learner stage when it comes to the culinary department, I don’t think I’ll delete it anytime soon. Terry readers, do you experience the same thing? Do you have an awe of the kitchen that you’re not sure will ever go away, regardless of how your skill level develops?

So with cooking being something I’m constantly thinking about, it was with great interest that I read Michael Pollan’s long form piece in the New York Times last week titled “Out of the Kitchen and Onto the Couch”.  It’s an article that I highly recommend reading (preferably at the kitchen table with fresh fruit because everything is more interesting that way) since he makes some intriguing connections between our relationship with food, how it’s changing, what this means for us, and how we can reclaim control over our health and diet, that are well worth considering.

It’s truly fascinating stuff.

He first discusses Julia Child and the type of cooking she represented, where food was serious and contrasts it with the cooking shows of today, which “stress quick results, shortcuts and superconvenience but never the sort of pleasure — physical and mental — that Julia Child took in the work of cooking”.

He notes that Julia Child challenged the idea that cooking was a form of oppression, and that she emphasized the satisfaction and fulfillment a dish well done could bring.

The new world of cooking shows though, with dazzling flashing knives, endless processed ingredients, and an speedy approach to the meal preparation process has transformed cooking to more of a spectator sport, then an activity that viewers can do along with the host.

From this initial observation comes numerous interesting ideas, from the meaning of the word cooking (I was definitely surprised), to the increased emphasis on eating within food channel programming, to the decrease in time we spend cooking and have available to devote to the kitchen, to how cooking has changed our evolutionary patterns and society structures, to even why barbecuing holds a special place in our hearts. The list goes on and on.

The article reminded me a lot of hearing Vandana Shiva speak on campus as part of the Speaker Series a few years ago, where she delighted in describing the different sorts of native rice India possesses, and spoke of the importance of personal control over meals, and creating local food systems and processes that allow people to have ownership over their health and what food they consume, as opposed to “coercive food systems that are institutionalised and constantly naturalised”.

I left her talk inspired and with beautiful memories of her fierce determination, and took a bit of that fierceness with me to the my next sojourn into the kitchen.

And that’s what great talks do, they transform you, tease away the layers of your assumptions, and bolster you up to live in the world in new and better ways.

And great talks can be given by anyone. Do you have ideas to share? Apply to TEDx Terry Talks 2009, the deadline is zooming up super quick.

For more info, check out application details here.

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Shagufta is a UBC Political Science graduate with a passion for interdisciplinary thinking, writing, travel, reading, tea, and interesting conversations. She hopes to combine all of these things in her life work someday. For now though, she studies social policy and planning at the University of Toronto and shares her adventures in and out of the classroom at http://seriouslyplanning.wordpress.com.