The Dance of Cooking Together


Think of the event of cooking. You are standing at the sink, washing the lettuce, while your partner reaches into the refrigerator to get the cucumbers, reaching back at the same time to turn off the stove. With one hand, she gives you the cucumber and despite the fact that you move across to reach for the grater at the same moment as she moves to pick up a fork, you somehow do not bump into each other. It’s not just that you’ve cooked together hundreds of times. It’s that the cueing is continuously rejigging the now of movement-moving. You are both dancing the interval of the decisions as they realign your cooking bodies.

This quote from dancer-philosopher, Erin Manning’s, Always more than one: Individuation’s Dance is a beautiful description about why it is a joy to cook with people in sync and why it is so difficult to have people help who are not in rhythm. I can imagine this dance is choreographed, perfected and fine tuned in professional kitchens. I wonder if there is a video of a professional kitchen dance somewhere like the early 20th century American and German efficient kitchen movement studies?

I’m lucky to have a partner who “dances the interval of decisions” with me so well and senses when to stand aside, ready to support with washing dishes or chopping. A certain generosity of spirit is demanded of those willing to adjust to the rhythm and lead of another in order to truly help in the kitchen. To be able to cook with someone is perhaps a greater test than being able to eat with someone. I’m not sure how to interpret this passage related to anxious dogs, i.e. Oreo, our dog who eagerly waits for a scrap to fall, constantly adjusting, cueing, rejigging….don’t know if he’s a better dancer or worse. Who is your favorite cooking partner? Why?

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