By Mitchell Ronzitti
As democratic the act of consuming food may be, the kitchen from which your food came is exactly the opposite. Everybody eats. No matter your background, skin color, financial means, political beliefs…everybody eats. One thing that can unite every single one of us, as humans, is our need to eat to survive. For some it is very much a communal activity, for others, a solitary act of necessity. Whether simple or spectacular, food is food is food. I contend that food can be much more than mere sustenance, but art, particularly when entrusted to the careful hands of a cautious chef.
To anybody that has ever had the pleasure of working in a kitchen, I commend both your level headedness and multitasking skills. To that same person you understand full well that unless your name is “Chef,” you live under the rules of their mighty hand. A kitchen is not a democracy; a kitchen is an authoritarian dictatorship under which the Chef is the judge, jury and the executioner. There is no if’s and’s or but’s. There is “Yes, chef” and there is “No, chef” there is no in between. The title of “Chef” must be earned not given, and the respect that goes along with that title is no easy feat.
The humble potato. The food of the poor for decades, thriving in the rocky soil of countless cultures. The many forms a potato can take are astounding, its utility is unmatched. Mashed, fried, roasted, toasted, boiled, broiled…the possibilities are endless, all at the hands of a chef.
Just as the most important tools of a free democratic society may be assessed as the ability to vote, Internet access, a free press, etc. a chef also has important tools, necessary to be successful in their craft. Other than a sharp set of knives, which I argue is paramount; a chef need not go far. Their hands, their eyes, their taste. Just as a guest will endure an entire sensory experience during a good (or bad) meal, a chef must do so in the kitchen. They must see, taste and feel everything going on around them at all times.
Earth, Water, Air, Fire…The four most basic elements of nature. But how does that have to do anything with food? Water fuels the Earth from which our food grows from seed to plant. Air and Water nurture the Earth so that this plant can grow healthy and strong. Earth and Water fuel the animals the roam so that Fire can turn their flesh into food for human beings.
Human beings, like most animals, tend to run in packs. The first pack that you are ever a part of is your immediate family. You grow, you learn, you experience new things. Some things you hold on to as your life goes on, I will deem these habits traditions. Tradition is how culture is preserved from generation to generation. The joy the may arise from exercising these traditions is simply unmatched. Holidays, birthdays, sporting events, what-have-you, all of these traditions have one thing in common, they are united by food. Everybody eats.