Many scientists, especially biochemists, love to cook when they are not spending time in the laboratory. After all, a recipe bears resemblance to a protocol, some measuring cups look like beakers, and a creative dish is just an edible experiment. Whenever I have the opportunity, I enjoy spending time at the granite lab bench known as the kitchen counter.
My goal when cooking is a tasty, nutritious meal that appeals to my family and any guests present. This meal is the product. I can choose to bake, boil, sauté, poach, steam, fry, broil, grill, braise, or cook sous-vide. These techniques are the process. My choice of cooking method and my skill using that method will affect the quality and properties of the product. For example, steaming vegetables preserves more vitamins than boiling them. Both steaming and boiling transfer heat through water. When you steam broccoli, you place the vegetable in a closed environment (pot with a lid on it) saturated with steam. This method softens the broccoli while maintaining the flavor and vitamin C content. If you were to boil the broccoli, the water-soluble vitamin C would leach out into the water, reducing the nutritional value of the vegetable. Cooking the broccoli sous-vide (under vacuum) preserves water-soluble vitamins, but requires the use of special plastic bags and controlled temperatures not normally found in home kitchens.
College students planning careers in medicine go through the experience of memorizing biochemical pathways for metabolism in the human body, such as the breakdown of carbohydrates into energy. Glucose, fructose 6-phosphate, and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate are some of the products of sugar metabolism that a student needs to memorize. However, hexokinase, phosphoglucose isomerase, and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase are equally important to students, scientists, and physicians. These enzymes convert one metabolite to another. They are responsible for the process that makes the products. Inborn errors in metabolism can cause serious disease for infants and small children. These errors arise from defects in enzymes. When the process is wrong, you do not get the products you need.
Products often catch our attention, while we forget the importance of the process. We see the athlete holding up the Olympic gold medal for the cameras, the graduate walking across the stage for his diploma, or the crisp pages of a newly released book. These products may inspire us to reach for similar goals ourselves. However, if we want the product, we must be willing to go through the process. If you want to be a world-class athlete, you must face hours of repetitive and grueling physical training. If you want a diploma, you have to learn to study. If you want to write a book, be ready to invest blocks of time writing and editing over the course of months.
We may admire a person of good character and forget that spiritual growth is also a process. “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7). To each good trait that we develop as we grow, we need to be prepared to add the next one. The process of growing to become more like Christ resembles slow cooking more than deep-frying. To get a healthy product, we must be willing to forgo our impatience with the process. Instead of becoming discouraged, we need to stick to the goal and take the next step, trusting that God finishes what He starts (Philippians 1:6).