Elliott Masie asked a question last week in his blog/newsletter. It’s a fun question and because it is accompanied by the promise of food and public spectacle at his upcoming conference, a clever marketing device as well. If nothing else, Elliott’s got a strong stomach for this type of distraction, and he got me thinking.

Here was his question: Cooking and Learning. Are They Similar? Here’s what it made me think of:

How are cooking and learning similar?

Today, most of us don’t have time to do either of them right. We don’t have time to shop for the best ingredients or blend them properly. We take prepackaged crap and call it nutritious. We fall for false advertising, pretty packages, and recommendations from the well-coiffed and well-spoken. We’re suckers for celebrity chefs, even if our neighbors cook a better meal. Most of the food on the store shelves is filled with harmful ingredients. We reach for the latest concoction, not the greatest value. We measure the immediate pleasure and forget the long-term impact. Because we hunger so much to get smiles and kind words at the end of the meal, we’re willing to add butter and salt and whatever else it takes. We definitely wouldn’t think of challenging our guests with brocolli rabe, ostrich patties, or sorbet. We’re fat and happy, and when the meal is done, we think we’ve succeeded in grand fashion. Our guests leave satisfied into the darkness of the slow-moving night. They live under threshold. They die young.

There are lots of celebrity chefs, hash slingers, and short-order cooks. There are very few who can blend nutrition, taste, and world-class quality into a meal.

Come to think of it, learning and cooking have a lot in common.

Postscript: My wife and I once went to celebrate Valentine’s Day at Chef Ming’s Blue Ginger restaurant. We don’t have cable so we didn’t resonate with his celebrity, but we’d heard good things about the restaurant from trusted friends and colleagues.

The result. One Valentine’s Day ruined with food poisoning.

We now refer to Celebrity Chef Ming’s restaurant as the Blue Vomit.

Is this the way it has to happen? Are we in the learning-and-performance field immune?