November 19th 2012
By: Sayer Ji & Tania Melkonian
Food has lost its story. Stripped of context, meaning, and reduced to its
molecular composition, ancient recipes for health and joy long to be recovered.
Recipes are ancient prescriptions for health, loved and labored into being by our ancestors. Responding to necessity and a primordial desire to experience pleasure and satiety while doing so, those who came before us perfected their edible relationship to their land and their culture. The result: codified combinations of nutrients, tastes, smells, modes of preparation and sourcing, which we know as recipes, and without which we would not be here, alive today reflecting on the subject.
If food, as Hippocrates said, is medicine, knowing and applying the proper dose and combinations – the recipe – will make the difference between a food, a dish, being healing or harmful. In this sense, recipes are prescriptions. In fact, the first literal use of the word 'recipe' was in the 1580's when for the French it meant (and still means) medical prescriptions. Handed down initially through oral tradition, recipes contain information no less fundamental to our well-being and survival, than the DNA within our genome.
Recipes provide a set of instructions from our generational predecessors explaining with just enough specificity what ingredients and combinations are required to nourish our bodies, but open-ended enough to guarantee creativity and variation based on individual and regional preference (For example, there is no universally correct molecular weight for a "pinch" of salt ). Generally speaking, for a recipe to live on past its conceptual life, it must continue to produce pleasure on the palate and ensure deep, authentic nourishment. In fact, a good meal will poignantly activate all the senses, reminding us through the enjoyment of food, that embodiment itself is not just a physical thing. As C.S. Lewis said "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."