Photo by Susan Waxman

Photo by Susan Waxman

In a recent entry , I began to discuss the benefits of cooking food. Cooking is a lifetime study that makes humans unique. It is a practice we can enjoy and learn from everyday without end.

Each method of cooking affects the color, taste, aroma, and textures of foods in different ways. The best cooking looks good, smells good, tastes good, and holds our interest for the entire meal. We receive the most nourishment and satisfaction from the variety of flavors that are present when enjoying the combination of raw, cooked, and naturally pickled and fermented foods at our meals.

Cooking enhances the bioavailability of nutrition in foods by concentrating certain nutrients on the surface, making them easier to digest and absorb. I’d like to illustrate these points by looking at just a few methods of preparation.

Pickling and fermenting
-Naturally pickling and fermenting foods is a unique method of preparation because nutrients and probiotics are produced that simply did not exist before. Naturally fermented sauerkraut is much more than cabbage and sea salt. We recommend miso (grain and bean ferment), sauerkraut (vegetable ferment), and umeboshi plum (fruit ferment) in our macrobiotic practice because they aid in the digestion and assimilation of the full range of plant-based foods.

Baking
-Baking makes foods look and taste richer. It is considered healthy, but the main result of baking is that the fats and proteins in the food become more bioavailable.

Blanching
Photo by Susan Waxman

Photo by Susan Waxman

-Blanching brings out the intense brightness of vegetables. This is because it enhances and concentrates the B vitamins, vitamin C, as well as minerals.

Sautéing with oil
-Currently, there is much controversy over the use of oil in cooking. Is cooking with oil beneficial or harmful? It is a question I have been pondering a long time and I would like to share some thoughts. Oil has been used in cooking for thousands of years in the world’s long-standing civilizations. It is also used in the cuisines and cultures with the highest longevity. I wonder if cooking with oil is being studied out of context.

It seems to me that high quality sesame or olive oil, used sparingly, has a similar effect as salt in combining with foods. In macrobiotics, we only use salt in cooking in a way to bring out the natural flavors of food without leaving a salty taste. We recommend using oil in a similar way so that it enhances the flavors and energetics of the food without leaving an oily taste. My observation is that the elimination of oil for periods of time (weeks or months) can provide substantial benefit. However, do these benefits last over sustained periods of time? I think it will be seen over time that oil, used properly, has a deeply nourishing and protective quality for the bones, joints, blood vessels, and nervous system.

I hope that these ideas stimulate your creativity to prepare meals that are deeply satisfying and nourishing. The final act of cooking is our enjoyment, chewing well, and giving thanks to nature, the food, and to the cooks. All of these thing wake up the goodness in the food. I will be further exploring these ideas in future blogs.