Rx Kitchen: The Warm Up

Like your steak Russian or American?

Like your steak Russian or American?

“Cooking is exactly like Crossfit.”

Said no one ever, I know. But it’s truer than you think. The fundamental drive of crossfit, for many, is simple: to improve their over all health in a well-rounded way that makes them prepared for life’s challenges, both expected and unexpected. With that in mind, cooking shares the same primal goal of preparing yourself to survive better than those around you and, with a little practice, even enjoy that survival. Everyone should be able to move their own bodyweight; everyone should be able to feed themselves

But I think it’s too easy to claim that physical health and self-sustenance are both fundamental human imperatives. It is a claim no one would refute. So let’s take it a step deeper. Take any wod as an example. Let’s say rowing, air squats, and kettle bell swings. You don’t practice those movements just to get to the end of the timer and check off that wod. The rowing ingrains the pulling motions that translate to snatches and cleans; air squats dial in your knee placement and tight core for heavier front and back squats; and kettle bell swings mirror the hip drive needed to hit that first muscle up.

No movement is single-purpose, conducted just for the sake of having done it. You train fundamentals so that you can compete in any workout life throws your way, and when you leave the gym you can carry that heavy TV, climb that tree, then chop it down, run a 5k, carry someone out of a burning building, or pull yourself into the helicopter that you just grabbed one-handed after jumping from a skyscraper. No one wants to be caught saying, “Sorry ma’am I’d lift that car off of you, but only if someone can weld a barbell to it.” So why tether yourself the same way in the kitchen?

I’m talking about recipes. Look, recipes are great, even necessary. They are building blocks, helping establish the fundamentals and easing someone into a new and potentially intimidating endeavor. You can’t tell a new crossfitter to do 30 muscle ups for time, and you can’t tell someone new to the kitchen to make a Portuguese twist on Duck à l’Orange for 30 people.

But just like movements in the gym, recipes should not be single-serving, completing them just for the sake of completion. No amount of heavy kettle bell swings can get you a muscle up, and no amount of recipes can make you a ‘good cook’. The goal is to break down the recipes and extract the concepts and techniques, then apply them to perfect what you already know, and tackle the unknown with confidence.

How do I hold my knife to dice an onion in the shortest time possible, with the fewest strokes? Why does the recipe call for that temperature and time? What is happening to the meat? Why high heat vs low? Why add herbs later, rather than now? What makes this dish “Cajun” or “Italian”? Just like the individual parts of a snatch, these are not conceptually complexor physically difficult to learn. And, just like a snatch, once learned the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

So, while of course we will be including recipes in future posts (you can’t just say “oh, you watched someone do a muscle up? Cool, go do one.”), the goal is to understand the principles, ratios, and techniques behind them. Once you know what happens to protein at 450 degrees, it works on any protein, anytime. Once you know what spices make up “Moroccan” cuisine you can apply them to anything. Combining these elements unlocks exponential potential, just like learning new movements opens up an infinite combination of new wods.

We will also be spending some sentences on tools. Shitty tools make for poor lifts, and wods that nobody enjoys. Like double-unders with a pool noodle, cooking with bad tools can make it a miserable experience that drives you away from the practice all together. So stick around. Looking back on the rewards of a year of work in the gym always validates the return on the investment of time and effort, and I promise that following these posts will yield a similar sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in the kitchen.