It always struck me as odd that in our society, the kitchen has been associated with women. Stories of hunter-gatherers hypothesize that many women stuck around the homes cooking all day while some of the women gathered plants and all the men went out to hunt, patrol, and explore.
Even further into civilization, the men went to work, and the women stayed home to cook and care for the children. So many men I have met abdicate any attempt at cooking, immediately saying things like “I just can’t cook.” Often, if there is some cooking knowledge, they prefer to call themselves “grill masters,” as if handling meat is the only “manly” thing they could be bothered with.
Yet, in my mind, there are few things “manlier” than being able to cook a delicious meal and knowing how to take virtually any ingredient and process it into something nourishing. As I’ve gone through my life, this concept has only been strengthened with experience.
Especially as a practicing chiropractor, I have continually seen worn-down, beaten, and degenerated men seemingly helpless to take control of their own health because they only know how to grill meats, order take-out, and eat cereals–totally incapacitated by the thought of adding more vegetables and nutrients into their lives.
Personal heroes like Anthony Bourdain, Masaharu Morimoto, Thomas Keller, and Michael Pollen are shining examples of men who have enhanced their masculinity by surrounding themselves with mastery over the world of food. And working in kitchens professionally, it was definitely a “boys club.”
Few women had the grit, the masculinity, or even just the desire to turn on the “blinders,” keep moving forward and endure the hardships of serving hundreds of people every night without rest or complaining.
Anthony Bourdain particularly helped me see that mastery over cooking allowed me the confidence to go anywhere in the world–I didn’t even have to know the local language to be able to contribute and make myself useful, if I wanted to travel or if I found myself in a jobless predicament. All I needed was the skill in my hands and my mind: for me, that was a promise of true freedom.
When I think of cooking as it relates to masculinity, the idea of freedom comes first and foremost to my mind. A dependent man is anything but free, and a man can only have the capacity for independence as far as he can foster and guarantee his own health. Sure, when I think of the sacred feminine, nourishing and caring are definitely on that list.
Yet, if alchemy, the yin/yang, and personal development have taught us anything, it’s that there are always seeds of the opposite polarity embedded in one aspect of reality. Every man has a seed of the feminine within him–and he cannot realize his true power until he acknowledges and builds that seed of femininity within.
The Magnum Opus demands that the sacred marriage occurs within, where the masculine and the feminine are mastered, married, and produce the androgynous “philosopher’s stone,” a soul perfectly balanced by the complete integration of polar opposites.
One of the insidious ways that industry has learned to make men dependent upon their greed has been to undermine the food supply we rely on.
Processed foods and oils, mostly devoid of nutrition, have catapulted us to an era of sickness. Most adults suffer from some chronic illness, whether it be a metabolic syndrome, heart disease, or something less serious like chronic heartburn and recurring ulcers.
Men spend their whole life trying to provide for themselves and/or their families, only to have to work even harder as they get older to afford the treatments needed to fix the chronic issues developed through a lifetime removed from fresh foods and nutrient-dense preparations.
Just as the destruction of their food supplies conquered the Native Americans, so too has modern man been subjugated through his lack of vibrant, fresh food.
I am so grateful that I was called to follow the chef’s path with this in mind. Even knowing how to cook since I was 8 years old, I still found myself pre-diabetic at the age of 20. Yet, it was precisely because I could cook for myself that I could change the ingredients I chose and turn that diagnosis around within a couple of years.
Knowing how to cook allows one to work with any ingredient. If my body needs more vitamins and minerals, I can see the variety of ways to incorporate that into my life. If my liver has been harmed by years of binge drinking, I know a few different preparations to make liver taste great.
If my heart has been damaged by chronic stress, I don’t avoid eating some heart because it’s not my favorite cut of steak. Suppose circumstance has left me with only beans and rice to eat. In that case, I know how to process each according to its unique requirements so that my gut can break them down and absorb the nutrients within, rather than getting inflamed by the alkaloids and lectins naturally residing inside.
If I am shown hospitality, I do not turn my nose up, no matter how the food is prepared, as I know I control what I eat the other 95% of the time. Cooking has allowed me this component of mastery over my earthly vessel, giving myself such a large part of the freedom and independence that I see as genuinely Masculine.
Freedom requires health; health requires nutrients; cooking provides the tools and knowledge about how to distill the nutrients from each ingredient. I am forever grateful I could walk down this path so that I may have a taste of freedom and share this knowledge with my brothers.
Chiropractor, Journalist, AF Airman, chef and Personal Trainer
About the Author
Ambrose Koll is a chiropractor located in Walnut Creek, CA. Previously a journalist, AF Airman, chef and personal trainer, he finds purpose in leading men through holistic healing based in spinal health, nutrition, movement and education. He found this purpose by testing out many different industries, while personally battling pre-diabetes and chronic depression. These lessons challenged him to learn that coherence of the body, mind and soul are required before attaining true health.