Nature in itself cannot be seen as being better nor worse; what humans do by cooking is improve on what they take from nature, according to their own standards, transforming nature’s products to make them edible or easier to digest.
Nature ‘processes’ – in other words, it cooks – because there are natural processes that transform the substance of nature’s products (ripening, drying, fermenting, etc.).
Humans were able to overcome the instinct that guides animals when they look for food, the sole purpose of which is to survive. Consequently, cooking became a human activity that is not shared with any other species.
Humans have a mindset and a will that mean they are aware they are transforming products in order to improve them.
As human beings, we cook with a mindset and a will, and we do so essentially because, unlike animals, we can. This action has allowed us to feed ourselves since the Paleolithic Age, but it later evolved in thousands of different ways, with multiple meanings and motives.
Cooking is an action that brings together different characteristics, which vary according to the priorities and decisions of the person who cooks, as well as the context in which they cook. The ‘how’ of cooking provides us with valuable information to explain what cooking is, depending on when, for whom, where, why and for what reason this action is performed. Only by understanding the culinary process are we able to analyse what is cooked and realize that cooking leads to different consequences and interpretations.
In addition to nourishing the body and feeding themselves, human beings have learned to use products, techniques and tools that go beyond mere survival, making cuisine a medium for hedonism, a means to enjoy the pleasure of taste. The differences between these two purposes for cooking are discussed in depth in this chapter.