This, my dear readers, is an honest-to-goodness question to you. I am trying to delve deeply into our (American) cultural understanding of the word “cook”. Non-Americans are welcome to weight in, as well, but keep in mind I’m located here and will be using the word and concepts in the US. Certainly cooking is an inclusive, international action.
The challenge, of course, is that “cooking” can mean mixing canned chili with pre-cooked seasoned rice while it also means preparing chicken stock from bones and other such stuff prior to making noodles by hand all to make a delicious pot of chicken noodle soup. These two actions are not comparable in terms of knowledge, skill, attitude, or confidence. Simple definitions include “mixing” or “heating” while other include the idea of transforming raw materials into items that are suitable to eat, whether a salad or casserole. Complex approaches include scoring meal preparation and ingredients– but should we automatically consider something with more ingredients to be more “cooked”?
The reason I care is simply because home-cooked meals are, on average, more healthful that prepared or restaurant meals. Some notable characteristics of “healthful” include lower levels of sodium, more vegetables, and fewer calories. It’s not inherently important WHO does the cooking, but rather that the control of food is based within the household. For example, you could pay someone to cook for you and it would be equally good as long as the food was prepared more like a home cook rather than seasoned like the average restaurant meal. Skilled home cooking may also lead to less food waste, and is one way to potentially reduce the environmental impact of your diet.
The other option is to avoid the word altogether and discuss food provisioning or food preparation or food-related work. How do you discuss and define cooking, if you do? Or is cooking like porn, in that we know when we see it?