At this year’s IFBC, the keynote speaker was John Ash — chef, author, and wine educator, who pioneered the use of local and seasonal ingredients in his Northern California restaurant. But instead of talking about cooking techniques or how to pair wine with food, he talked about his mentors, and why it was so important in his development as a chef.
Naturally, many of his mentors where other chefs such as Julia Child or M.F.K Fisher. But one mentor that he mentioned stood out — Wendell Berry, a poet, environmental activist, and farmer who wrote the critical essay: “The Pleasures of Eating.” The essay covers topics from the perspective of an urban shopper, and stresses the importance of becoming educated by asking questions: where does the food you eat come from, how was it processed, and how did it arrive at your market? Sadly, what many people don’t realize is that eating is an agricultural, social, and political act, and that cooking your own food is one of the most important ways you can become empowered and derive true pleasure from eating.
During the keynote, my thoughts turned to my own mentors — my mom and grandmothers. Like many women in Peru, these women passed on culinary traditions to their children. My grandmother taught my mom to cook, and my mom in turn taught me. In gratitude to my mentors, I wrote this piece on my blog: “Peru’s Goddesses of Food.” Thanks to them, not only do I have the habit of planning and cooking meals on a regular basis, but I also feel connected to my ancestors and their culinary history through the food that I cook.
Recently, I watched the first episode of “Cooked” by Michael Pollan, and was reminded that beyond the pleasure of eating, cooking or learning to cook, is what makes us all human:
“Fire is a very powerful thing.
… this is a sign that you’re gonna get fed.
Because we are the species who cooks.
No other species cooks.
And when we learned to cook is when we became truly human.”
— Michael Pollan
Perhaps that’s why all cooks look up to their mentors, and realize that they have learned something far more valuable than the ability to cook a meal.
As an active food blogger, I was eligible for a discount during conference registration and in exchange I promised to write three blog posts on a subject of my choice related to IFBC 2016. This is the first of three posts about my weekend adventures at IFBC 2016 in Sacramento.