Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
16 May

Why It’s Important to Cook Your Own Meals

Primal ChefWhen was the last time you made a great meal? From-scratch prep, serious gratification result. This morning? Last week? Last month? Although I imagine Primal folks cook much more often than most non-Primal types, we all get caught up in the busyness of life. Eating – even healthy eating – often gets boiled down to convenience and strategy. I get it. Few of us have the luxury of basking in culinary ventures at every meal (myself included), but I do find real cooking to be an underappreciated indulgence – and there’s the rub.

Why, as a larger culture, have we chosen to forgo so many of these gifts – taking extra time to shop for better food, creating meals together, lingering at the table? For example, we can look at statistics that say the average American spends only 27 minutes on food preparation each day and wonder – are we really that busy? What are we rushing off to? Then we see average T.V. viewing is 151 hours a month! (How is this even possible?) Clearly, our priorities are royally screwed up.

Of all the things we can do for our health, many (if not most) are just outright enjoyable, pleasurable even. Connecting with our food can be exactly that – from absorbing the joys of gardening to relishing the sensory delights of great recipes to reclaiming the social hour for dinner. As for cooking itself, learning to cook is just one of those essential human skills. It was an evolutionary linchpin. Our hominid brains as well as our bodies benefited from the chance to access new food sources that were only available to our ancestors through cooking. And it wasn’t just about heat. As we learned to adapt food sources in other ways such as soaking, curing, fermenting and smoking we had more options for calories and nutrition. Yet, it was more than that.

According to anthropological interpretation of surviving evidence, the ritual of food preparation for our hunter-gatherer kin started tens of thousands of years ago in meat sharing practices. (Evidence of large scale feasts date back at least 12,000 years, proving Grok and his buds really knew how to throw a good dinner party.) The point is, even in those “short and brutish” days, it wasn’t all kill the beast, chop it up, and eat it. Food preparation, merging into ceremony, took on a social and cultural life of its own beyond consumption.

In every human society since, there’s been rich and varied tradition associated with food preparation. Religions of nearly every brand have food related rituals regarding how meals are to be prepared, shared, or timed. We see it still in the age-old practices that keep food Kosher or in the preparation of feasts for our most treasured holidays, in the tradition of serving a meal following a wedding or burial. Some cultures, like the Greeks, even have specific foods customary for the burial event.

Even today, there are few things so resoundingly primal as preparing food to create meals (for large or small scale). There are the smells, the blood and the flames. There are the messy hands, drunken senses (literal or figurative depending on how much of the cooking wine you tested), the heightened, tactile creativity. Is cooking essential to the Primal Blueprint? I’d say you have a hard time getting around it without a Primally trained personal chef (there’s a thought). Cooking, on some level, is necessary for the PB and is beneficial to a profound degree.

Eating in is in almost every case healthier (and much more economical). Most of us would be hard pressed to find a Primal restaurant near us (they do exist), and even in better restaurants with local and organic suppliers, there are the still the question marks lingering on the menu. What kind of oil do they use for cooking? What kind of cookware? While I enjoy going out and have no intention of forgoing that pleasure, there’s a certain peace in knowing every facet of my dinner. Compared to the larger landscape of conventional “dine out” choices, you’re astronomically better off eating in.

The better cooks we are, the richer and more varied our diets can be. The principle worked for our ancestors’ collective health, and it applies to us individually today. Like our ancestors, the right techniques open up new food possibilities for us – like cheaper and otherwise tougher cuts of meat. Additionally, many foods may be wholly uninspiring on their own but become fast favorites when paired with the right sauce or some novel herbs. As we expand our repertoire, we lessen the chance that we’ll get bored with our choices.

A few key cooking techniques and kitchen skills can go a long way in making our Primal dishes healthier and more satisfying. You get a lot of mileage, for example, in terms of both flavor and nutrition when you can make your own batches of bone broth and use them creatively with meat dishes, sautèed vegetables, or basic sauces. Braising opens up a whole new world with certain meats. Roasting can make certain vegetables glorious that you wouldn’t touch steamed. Playing with fats and incorporating them into – well, everything – can give your food levels of flavor that will confound your dinner guests and satisfy you to no culinary end. The end result of all these endeavors just might be you, Primal chef, developing a nuanced palate and kitchen wizardry you couldn’t ever imagine wanting – let alone having. What do you know – you got skills. And a damned good dinner at that.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What do you think? Could you be Primal and not cook your own meals? Did you come to Primal living with a penchant for cooking, or did you learn along the way? Have you discovered an appreciation for time spent in the kitchen? Have a good end to the week.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Hi Mark,

    You know what Mark? When I read this question “Why It’s Important to Cook Your Own Meals” I realize why I love cooking! So first thing why I’m cooking is I want to show to others that I can cook so that is one skill that I have!
    Second one, I’m so “OC” with it comes to the food that I have! and like other said Quick and Easy!

    Obviously many of us wants the healthy food! right? And for you to make it sure that your food is clean!

    Thank you so much for sharing Mark.

    Thanks a lot!


    kim wrote on May 22nd, 2013
  2. I find it much easier to stop eating when I’m full if my meals are more defined, such as when I’ve cooked something and served it all up on a plate. I also find you slow right down and clean up, instead of just moving on to the next thing! So much more satisfying…

    Justin wrote on June 8th, 2013
  3. I tend to get a boost in stamina when I’m cooking, especially for other people. I think that’s innate – an a priori biological tendency. For example near the end of the winter a friend (at least, was then, before stealing a knife from me!) visited me where I was camping. I didn’t plan on cooking that night and was just relaxing, but he was hungry, so I set about the work of making a fire to boil a carton of eggs. I was running back and forth from my woodpile to the grill, breaking sticks and arranging them with decent speed and I must say marvelous tenacity – they were literally falling into place, or at least seemed to be, but the resulting fire was a very nice one, like it had a soul of its own. My feet were rough in my clunky boots but it didn’t matter. The pain temporarily subsided and when I had to make a short trip to a restaurant washroom to get water to boil I ran with the pot, then walked back as quick as I could while keeping it balanced. I was excited for the work and felt on the edge of being frantic to get it done in order to assuage my friend’s hunger. I ended up feeling so energetic that I got barefoot and went for a short sprint before dinner. My friend asked if he could stay at the campsite that night (he was drifting/couch-surfing) so I allowed him to use most of my blankets and sleep on my foam mattress and spent the night chilly, having trouble sleeping, but didn’t mind since I knew my sacrifice of a comfortable sleep was a noble one.
    One other example is cooking omelets with the friend who taught me to make them as big kids. It was our morning ritual after sleep-overs. Even with hangovers and junk food fatigue, cooking together woke us up and sparked our good cheer for the day, and we’d enthusiastically experiment with new ingredients – that’s when I started occasionally cooking with bacon grease – then sit down and stuff ourselves while reflecting on how awesome our breakfasts were. 10 years later we still mention those pioneering kitchen sessions.

    Animanarchy wrote on June 19th, 2013
  4. I cook every breakfast and dinner every day for the whole family. Luckily I do like cooking! Although it does get a bit tiresome having to do it every meal, every day! The only one I don’t generally do is lunch, one daughter has school meals, although she chooses the more primal options. The younger one has a packed lunch and my husband and I have the leftovers from dinner the night before.

    Getting some good recipes is key, ones that you’d be happy to eat every week or fortnight and rotate those and then throw a new one in every now and again. Your favourites of the new ones will then replace ones in rotation that you get tired of!

    Any cookbook by Nigel Slater, but particularly the one called “Eat” are good. About 75% of his recipes are primal anyway and they’re all yummy! Usually very simple too and then tehy surprise you with how delicious they are.

    Also, always have a fallback one that you can cook in 30 minutes when you’re in a hurry! Ours is Thai Chicken Green Curry. Fry up some green curry paste (you can always find one that doesn’t have any nasty oils), brown some chicken breast in it, then throw in a can of coconut milk, simmer for 5 minutes or so, then throw in some green beans and broccoli, simmer for another 5 and then serve! We have it with a very small amount of rice but you could have cauliflower rice, or extra veg or whatever.

    Vanessa wrote on March 14th, 2014
  5. Would titanium cookware be good? I saw these and they say they can cook with no oil. anyone tried these or ones like it?

    Dan V wrote on January 4th, 2015

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