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Starting with minimal units of meaning (product, technique, tool) from which other higher-ranking units are generated (elaborations), which in turn can articulate a discussion (menu), we see that cooking is constructed like a language.
Within the framework of human language, whose origin and evolution we consider in this section, we discover that there is a lexicon, a terminology specific to the culinary field – which may also be gastronomic – used to designate each concrete or abstract aspect involved in the action of cooking.
From a mathematical standpoint, we consider algebra as a way of encoding cuisine. Here we also include the notion of cooking as a culinary formula, analysing its results as compositions accompanied by instructions for their elaboration.
Cooking is here explained through the understanding of recipes as algorithms, seeing that they gather the necessary information about the products, techniques and tools required for a specific elaboration
In the vast world of cookbooks, there is no consensus on the categories of products, techniques and tools used, nor is there agreement on the way of naming each resulting elaboration. At present, taking into account the conceptual change brought about by the digital world, we suggest a series of categories that would help to create consensus in the formulation of digital recipes.
When introducing a philosophy linked to cuisine, we allude to the cook’s way of thinking being transferred to the culinary process and its results. This will cause the cook to make or not make certain decisions and, taken as a whole, will provide us with key information about the cook as an individual.
Religious beliefs have historically been one of the major conditioning factors in cooking, as they establish certain restrictions and obligations that the faithful (cooks and diners) transfer to their culinary habits and to the products they consume. This can involve factors beyond the culinary process, both in sourcing and in tasting.
Cooking involves the management of resources and, inevitably, their consumption. We now consider whether, in terms of cuisine, it is possible to have certain degrees of sustainability that guide decisions about purchasing products and ways of elaborating them, as well as in later stages, such as in the management of the waste produced.
We explain the question of health from the standpoint of cuisine for nourishment, with which it is always primarily associated, and from that of cuisine for pleasure, which it increasingly tries to accommodate.
From the historical perspective, the idea that certain elaborations can heal or help the individual recover from a given ailment leads us to consider the role that medicine and pharmacy play in the kitchen.
Cooks find self-expression through the elaborations that are the result of cooking, just as writers or actors do through books or plays. The decision about what message to send and what underlying philosophy can be found in it is a personal matter.
Of all the feelings that cooking can express, love is the greatest. Cooking out of affection for others and pouring all that feeling into the process and its results are gestures of unmitigated generosity, which include very strong emotional bonds.
One of the purposes of cuisine is purely social, given that we cook so that we can eat in company or we eat what others cook (at home or in a restaurant), turning the act of consumption into something that goes beyond the intention to feed or nourish, and placing the focus on social relations from which important bonds can be created.
Sociology and anthropology are sciences devoted to the study of human beings, both individually and within the framework of a society. As knowledge-generating disciplines, we consider them potential guides for our discipline and we believe that they can help explain the relevance of cuisine in the life of each individual and each society.
Here we twist the meaning of design as applied to objects and apply it to elaborations to be tasted. These are designed in practical terms, using products in the elaboration process, but their design began long before, in the mind of the person who cooks them and who starts out with definite ideas.
Cooking can become a show or be incorporated into one when it is accompanied by rituals that exalt it or the tasting of its results. It then takes on a meaning related to entertainment.
Whether cooking is or can be considered art is a long-standing debate and one we return to in this section, in which we compare the cook with the artist and elaborations with works of art. In art, as in cuisine, there is a creative process and also a process of reproduction, since extraordinary virtuosity can be found in it. There is also a result that has a number of characteristics and that can be used to capture a message, just as in cuisine.
Although still under construction and development, cooking is already an academic discipline, studied in centres of education all over the world. And since it has made it to the university sphere, it is also a university discipline. We question whether we can consider it a scientific discipline and justify our response based on the production of knowledge.
Among all the other purposes of cooking, we find that of communicating: when we cook in order to teach, to accompany a lecture in a conference or for any other reason related to communication rather than to the tasting of the elaborations themselves.
Linked to the previous purpose, we observe that culinary themes have an important presence in the world of publishing and audiovisual production as creators of content. Cuisine, as a theme, is found in many different versions, and in formats to be read, listened to and watched.
As an everyday part of human life since prehistoric times, cooking is deeply rooted in the ways in which we understand the environment and our relationship with it. Accordingly, it has come to form part of our culture at every level – local, regional, national, etc. In every part of the world, it has taken shape in a certain way and has enormous symbolic and ritualistic significance.
The notion that a demographic knowledge of human populations may help us to better understand their culinary reality is explained in this section, where we also consider the importance of factors such as migration.
One of the main agents in the development of the characteristics of a cuisine has historically been the place in the world where it happens. In many ways location is crucial to our understanding of why cooking is done by a specific technique or using a specific product, for instance.
Because local is understood to mean inherent to a place, we consider the possibility of such a cuisine being developed, a cuisine that is deeply rooted in the land on a regional level.
Although this volume focuses on the cuisine of Western fine-dining establishments, we cannot overlook the geopolitical reality that divides East and West, and we transfer this to the culinary art.
Another of the disciplines that is less associated with cooking but which helps explain many of the ways it works and the results it produces is political science. From this perspective, we give a brief overview of the act of cooking, which we consider can be restricted or consolidated, and influenced to a greater or lesser degree by a given political system and order.
In order to become a reality, something possible, cooking depends on the three traditional economic sectors. From the primary sector of agriculture, livestock and fishing, it takes unelaborated products; in the secondary sector is the food industry, which transforms and distributes these products; and in the tertiary or service sector we find the hospitality industry (linked to tourism) in which catering in all its various forms is found.