Let me begin this blog entry with a weekend musing.
This weekend, we spent Saturday night with a bunch of good friends. We enjoyed tacos, ramen, a couple of easy drinks and loads of conversation and belly laughs. There was even a chilli eating competition.
The owner of the restaurant frequented our table with stories from his childhood and told us how his career in food had unfolded so far. He told us what lay at the heart of his restaurant. He aimed to cater to two completely unrelated food cravings – Mexican and Japanese – which could either be enjoyed singularly or together at his restaurant. He had sourced the best organic and biodynamic wheat that he could find to make his taco shells and ramen. He explained, I was pretty much guaranteed that my gluten sensitivity wouldn’t be triggered by eating his food. Surprisingly to me, his words rang true!
The food was tasty, inexpensive and uncomplicated. It was satisfying. Everyone was relaxed and happy.
Can we invoke these sensations created by good food and company at every meal?
Granted, I will give you, eating at your own dinner table is probably not as exciting as at a restaurant. I am going more basic in my musing- it is the feelings of simplicity and joy that I am talking about.
Food is one of the most primal needs we all have. It lies at the crux of culture and family. It provides a means for forging friendships, creating love stories and marking celebrations. The sharing of food has always been part of the human story. “To break bread together,” a phrase as old as the Bible, captures the power a meal has to both create and repair relationships. In some cultures, the power and importance of food even extends into the afterlife. where delicacies are left in honour of the deceased to let them know that they haven’t been forgotten.
Favourite food things that warm my heart:
Watching Children making mud pies, have tea parties, trading snacks to make friends;
Being amazed at how just the taste of a favourite childhood snack can summon strong and emotive happy memories;
Hosting (or attending) outdoor picnics or barbecues as relaxed, inexpensive and simple experiences;
The pride and yummy flavour in home-made birthday cakes rather than a store-bought one;
Tasting the love in a gift of home-made chutney or jam;
Celebrating Sunday morning with a favourite family breakfast.
So many of us these days are eating on the run, stressing over food, fitting in food when we can, or even worse, forgetting to eat. Many of us have forgotten the joy food can create and only see glimpses of it when we go out with friends and family.
My top tips to rediscover the joy of food:
Buy the best ingredients that you can afford: Contrary to popular belief, organic food is not the epitome of food. In fact, many of us are unable to afford a fully organic diet. Work within your budget constraints and buy the best quality ingredients that you can afford. For example, instead of purchasing home-brand rice, perhaps ditch a few of those unnecessary snacks and go for better quality, fragrant basmati rice instead. Even incremental increases in quality will be noticed on your fork in terms of taste, texture and smell.
Enjoy the food that is in season: It’s easy to spot. The most plentiful, tastiest and cheapest fare around, it’s hard to look past food in it’s natural ripening season. You’ve gotta love getting produce when it is at the height of its deliciousness, particularly when it doesn’t even make a noticeable dent in your pocket.
Don’t go looking too far for your food: Discover the local gems that are at your doorstep. When you get food that is grown near you, (particularly if it’s been freshly picked that morning) it’s guaranteed to be much more flavourful than something that’s been sprayed with chemical pesticides, shipped across the globe and/or has been sitting in the warehouse for a couple of weeks.
Choose delicious foods: Choose delicious foods, food combinations and recipes rather than trying to choke down foods you don’t like- but you think are good for you. For example, if you aren’t a salad lover, don’t try to chow down a salad every day. You may simply end up loving vegetables and find them more interesting when prepared in a different way. This is your chance to build up your recipe repertoire by trying out a new recipe- say- once every fortnight or so. As you try more recipes and combinations, you will start figuring out what works with what. You’ll build confidence to start cooking up your own ways to prepare food, which is always exciting.
If you have lost your love story with food and the preparation of it, perhaps try some of the above tips to rekindle your passion. Take a moment to close your eyes and think about those joyful, uplifting moments which surround you when sharing food with family and friends. Start with the simple things. It is totally possible to evoke at least some of that joy in every single meal that you prepare for yourself and your family.
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
– J.R.R. Tolkien