How to Cook an Aching Heart by Aileen Suzara ’06

Aileen Suzara ’06 is a Filipina/American educator, cook, eco-activist, farmer and adobo champion. While completing a B.A. in Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College, she fell in love with the power of story to highlight and to create change–from the voices of climate change fighters to the stories of California’s farmworkers. Aileen’s writing appears in The Colors of Nature, Earth Island Journal, Growing Up Filipino, Hyphen, and more. She blogs on food, farming, and place at Kitchen Kwento..    

As an undergraduate student, I realized with dismay that I was not meant to be a biologist. I was more interested in biology’s sweeping narratives of evolution, adaptation and attraction than in following good lab protocol. But many years later, there is one lesson that I remember as mystical. It’s a process as familiar to the home cook as it is to the researcher.

There are some proteins that change their structure through exposure to heat, or a compound like salt or acid. Take away the change agent, though, and it reverts back to origins. Yet for other proteins, once exposed at a certain threshold they never return. We can see this as lime juice seeps in and “cooks” tender raw fish into kinilaw, or in that quick flash of an egg hitting a hot pan. This second cooking is about total transformation, disruption so complete there is no going back.

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