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Choosing to Cook

Note: For more information about the Am I Hungry?®Mindful Eating program, visit or my website.

When eating at home, if you had a choice, would you cook, or would you want to have your meal instantly prepared and presented to you by a machine?

For so long, this has been a hypothetical question, since the second option only existed in sci-fi, with items like the replicators on Star Trek where you could simply state what you wanted and – voila! – you would have it. But reality is catching up: a new device now allows you to do 3-D printing of food. You still have to cook it, but the prep is done for you, and they’re working on a machine that will cook as well.

It’s a fascinating idea, especially for those who find cooking a chore. But is something lost in translation? Does cooking, the act of preparing a meal, have benefits beyond nutrition?

Michael Pollan, in his book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, argues “that cooking… is one of the most interesting and worthwhile things we humans do.” (p. 11)

What’s so great about it? Part of the benefit is that by working with the raw ingredients, rather than being handed something prepared, we are reminded of our connection to nature, to the plants and animals sustaining us. That’s something all too easy to forget with pre-packaged meals.

Additionally, as Pollan notes: “Is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?” (p. 23)

I suspect a number of people agree. Gathering in a kitchen, chatting and relaxing while eyeing simmering or browning or baking food, is a way of connecting with those we care about. Even on Star Trek, certain occasions warranted actual cooking, marking it as special.

This is great if you’re sharing a meal, but I hear a lot of people say, “It doesn’t seem worth it to cook just for me.”

My response to this is based on something we discuss in the Am I Hungry?®Mindful Eating program. Why are you worth less than anyone else? Why wouldn’t you give yourself the same care and attention you would other people you love?

Admittedly, this can be hard to accept for those who struggle with their self-worth. Personally, it took me a long time to accept loving myself, but I found cooking helped. By taking time to treat myself well, I began to think better of myself, as someone who deserved caring and those home-cooked meals.

Cooking also grounds me. After a long day of sitting in front of a computer, having the chance to produce something tangible – and even better, tasty – is relaxing and energizing, far more than simply staring at additional screens.

It’s not something I can commit my whole evening to, given my number of other interests, but I appreciate the time I spend on it. After all, what better activity than doing something nourishing for body and spirit?

So I’m intrigued by the idea of 3-D food printing, and I think it could be fun as a novelty item, but I’m not prepared to rely on it. While others might, and I don’t fault them for it, I choose to cook, knowing how much it benefits my life.

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