It was my birthday last week but my friends refused to bake me a birthday cake. Their reasoning: as a discerning baker, I would be far too critical of their cakes.
I’ll admit it. I often critique the foods that I eat. But, I look upon this analysis as an opportunity to learn and improve upon my own cooking skills.
What goes through your head each time you take a bite? Do you focus on the texture and temperature? Do you ever slow down to notice if there are any flavor nuances? What about thinking about the quality of the ingredients or the nutrition profile of the dishes?
Whenever I’m eating, but most especially when I’m paying to enjoy a nice night out, I think about all of these things. Having taught myself to cook as an adolescent, the ability to ask critical questions about the foods I eat and cook has been crucial to my growth. And, as food is the most intense of my life’s passions, this ability to analyze and edit has helped me to grow and develop in all aspects of my life.
Just as my passion for food extends past the acts and experiences of cooking and eating, so too does my analysis of food not fail to acknowledge the social significance of the act. At a restaurant this means playing closer attention to how the seat organization, lighting, or music help to create an experience with you and your guests. Also, how the character of the server contributes to the personality that the establishment is trying to put forward and whether or not the language of the menu is designed for people to understand and feel comfortable in the setting.
Food is all about the personal interaction. While I might critique in hopes of giving advice and helping someone to improve upon their own dishes, I enjoy food made by others because it represents an invitation to understand them a little more. Though I am quite proud of my cooking skills, I too am nervous before presenting a meal. But, in taking the chance to prepare food and make myself vulnerable to all possible criticism (or compliment), I hope to show that they are significant enough for me to put myself in an uncomfortable position on their account. I simply hope that I am significant enough for others to do the same.