There’s No BS in Cooking

A few follow-up thoughts on last week's post on the difference between doing things and talking about doing things.

Cooking gives us a striking illustration of this difference. You can talk about cooking, you can read about it, you can watch shows about it. But it's painfully obvious to everyone that none of these things is cooking. You can't demonstrate you "know" cooking without actually performing the action of cooking.

Better still, in cooking there is a far lower risk of fooling ourselves with a "psychological sense of completion" compared to other domains. And it's interesting to think about why: it boils down to ego injury. If we make a practice of ingredient bragging, or worse, blather in conversation about advanced cooking techniques yet we can't actually cook, it would be a tremendous ego injury if we get found out. It would be transparently pathetic. Therefore, because the risk of embarrassment is too great, our egos don't (and won't) risk pretending to have expertise we don't have.

All of this makes cooking a wonderfully BS-free domain.

In stark contrast, other fields are buried in BS. Have you ever heard an out-of-shape person talking pseudo-knowledgeably about fitness regimens or diets? Another example: in my former professional field of investing, it's hilariously common to hear people blather on about the stock market or the economy with zero knowledge whatsoever behind their talk. (We're clearly in a stock market bubble right now, and I'm deeply concerned about hyperinflation and ultra-high interest rates once the Treasury stops QE.)

Of course the worst of all examples is the domain of politics. We're all experts here. We all feel justified in having strongly held political opinions, even though 99.9% of us have never held any actual political responsibility and half of the electorate doesn't even vote.

Cooking is refreshingly different, and I wonder if one of the reasons I like it so much as a subject (and why I find so many metaphors and so much to talk about in it) is because it's an action-based, non-bullshit domain. If you can cook something you can cook it. You don't talk to demonstrate your competence in cooking, you don't regurgitate factoids and jargon in conversation to demonstrate your competence in cooking, you cook to demonstrate your competence in cooking. There's no way to hide behind "tawk" like there is in all these other domains.

Have you ever heard anyone sling cooking jargon without knowing anything in the same way people constantly sling investing (or economic, or political) jargon without knowing anything? (Yesterday I was chiffonading some local organic collard greens, and I thought, gosh, if I brunoise-diced them instead, they would go great in a sugo that I could simmer in my Chinese ding.)

That is a sentence I'm fairly confident I will never hear spoken. And certainly not by someone who has no idea how to cook.

Sure, okay, there's ingredient bragging and virtue-signaling in cooking. Nothing's ever perfect. And yes, sure, people do watch cooking shows and don't actually cook. But nobody's ego confuses this with actual cooking. You show you can cook by cooking, by preparing food and serving it to friends and family and having them enjoy it. It's refreshing.

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