This material is the opening class topic and is used throughout the entire curriculum. You will be integrating five critical theories of cooking. Your kitchen set up will match the terminology of the language and prepare you to use a regime of organization and order to be efficient with time and costs as you utilize the Natural Cook® system.
When Alfalfa’s Market in Boulder, Colorado asked me to open a cooking school for them in 1983, I hadn’t used a recipe in over a decade. This was a serious grocery store for the time, a leader in the evolving natural food industry. I asked myself, “What could I bring that had vision and value for a burgeoning culture that was asking for healthy, whole foods both at home and in commercial settings?” My thought process to solve this problem went like this:
1. Teaching from recipes would be boring to me and insulting to the intelligence of a cooking school.
2. If I don’t teach from recipes, what’s left? There were only two pathways that I could see. A) Use recipes and then teach how to change them, or B) become a mentor the way I studied, the way Julia Childs studied. A mentorship is ideal for students, but not commercially viable for a grocery store. Personal computers were just a blink in the marketplace, but I could feel life speeding up, people ready to demand that information be downloaded quickly. The idea of an apprenticeship or mentorship was impractical and outdated.
3. I would just have to use my understanding of “the creative process” that I was given at birth, and hope for the best. Okay, this was the path — exciting enough to get me out of bed at 4 am and to keep me awake until I slept at midnight. As far as I knew, teaching cooking without recipes had not been packaged. I would choreograph the essence of cooking, the way I choreographed dances. I asked myself “What needs to be communicated?”
Once I had made the commitment to create a cooking school for this beautiful store, things unfolded easily. Students were eager. I loved sharing what I had been studying in my personal life for 10 years. The only problem was that the effort it took to explain all the possibilities of infinite potential for creating delicious dishes was exhausting for me and overwhelming for students.
4. This material needed form. It needed a logical structure as a container to hold the process of what happens inside of a natural cook — that is, someone who doesn’t use a recipe and who doesn’t need to be told what to use or how to put the dish together. I needed to access the former dancer inside me to observe what my body was going through when I cooked. “What were the results from each step I put the food through? Where was I free to make choices, and what was the common denominator that held the structure?”
At 3:00 am May 12, 1987, the direction of my life did a 180. It was a thought, a message, an idea accompanied by the feeling of being hit on the head to wake me up. I was preparing to be a student at an acupuncture school in New Mexico, and hopeful to study a career path that I felt would make a difference in people’s lives.
But whatever idea came into me early that morning, the two-year journey became the book Amazing Grains: Creating Vegetarian Main Dishes with Whole Grains (published H.J.Kramer Inc. 1989). This was my attempt to put the mystery of what goes on in a cook who doesn’t use a recipe, down on paper. The publisher insisted on recipes, but allowed me to chat about “the creative process” and leave the recipe in the side bar. It was a beginning. After one season, the idea of opening Alfalfa’s Market Cooking School had been traded in for a second store and The School of Natural Cookery took over the culinary education program. Still fascinated by looking for tools to explain what I now felt was a worthy subject, I knew I would need to write about beans and vegetables too. Romancing The Bean (published by H.J. Kramer Inc. 1990) attempted to follow the success of the inspired grain book. But it wasn’t until 2007, seven years later, that I had observed enough — in my kitchen, and with students in their kitchens — that I understood the structure that had been evolving.
Instead of a book centered only around vegetables, I wrote Intuitive Cooking From The School of Natural Cookery, (Book Publishing Company 2007) for students. I was now able to explain a complete structure for understanding all cuisines, all diets. It became a functional language and one that has been proven to work.
The Language of Intuitive Cooking is the bones — the framework — of the entire Natural Cook training. As with any language, with practice this efficient, accurate and functional language becomes fluent, as an integral and authentic part of the student. This language requires authenticity, efficiency, accuracy and the option to stay in the mystery.
I am your mentor. The teachers I train are your mentors. Eventually, The Language of Intuitive Cooking becomes your mentor, too.