Between Nature and Culture, as a famous chef insightfully claimed in a recent NPR interview—that is, between the Raw and the Cooked—, is food and its creative Maestro: the modern Chef. In every human society since the dawn of Culture itself, it is the cook or Chef who orchestrates the very Taste of tradition, stimulating the appetite and satisfying the palate of a people in any time or place. Whether a nursing Mother or a Michelin Star head chef, the one who transforms raw resources into the sorts of food that define a peoples’ signature cuisine is an Elder Leader of the highest magnitude.
In today’s globalized, multicultural pastiche of nationalities, religions, and colorful customs, the archetype of the Chef—as an Elder Leader—has taken on new layers of significance, deeper than ever before. It is the Chef who combines and harmonizes traditional foods from many sources of origin, creating haute cuisine from scraps and unifying spices that blend whole communities together in a delicious fusion of common ground.
The recent film The Hundred Foot Journey beautifully dramatizes this insight about the role of the Chef in today’s multinational cultural landscape. “The Chef leads,” says the young Indian protégé of his late mother’s exquisite cuisine as he boldly melds ancient continental Indian spices into classic French cuisine. The story is about more than this fusion of menus; it is about the interweaving and transformation of peoples brought together around these foods; about transcending ethnic boundaries symbolized by their distinctive histories of food and temperament. When the Chef succeeds in overcoming all obstacles to ethnic divisions through inter-cultural romance and humble learning across the arc of international variety, then a new Fusion can emerge; a new world order of community itself can flourish.
The Chef “makes it so!” by introducing the subtlety of change into a world once characterized mainly by sameness. “Viva la differance!” we may declare, appreciating a new tide of flavorful camaraderie. Similarly, Julie and Julia is about a blogger who celebrated Julia Child’s masterpiece cookbook that brought the rich Art of French Cooking to America shortly after WWII. The Spicer of life and forger of new cultural identities that foster peace and brotherhood is often the Chef of a new menu, n’est-ce pas?
What new items are on your changing menu of life experiences? How can you bring about Better Endings metaphorically as the Chef of your own family meals?