I love food, as a source of comfort, and a way to relax; cooking unwinds me as does reading recipe books. Coming across a new recipe to try out is both a challenge and fun. I take great pleasure from sharing my cooking and the caring it conveys. The joy of a simple meal with friends and family is one of the best things in life.
My earliest memories are being taught to cook by my mother, easy at first. I remember making sausage rolls, actually making the pastry and loving the silky feel of the flour flow through my fingers, the sense of creation by mixing the ingredients then rolling it out. She conceded in later years my pastry was better than hers though I never beat her in the baked cake stakes. Later came dishes with chicken, my favourite meat, which as a cook I love because of its versatility; roast, braised, fried, poached, in sauce, admitting the spices of the world’s cuisines.
I realised how much I missed cooking when I was in halls in my first year at University. We had to eat in the college refectory; boring, monotonous gloop, badly cooked and served. Fortunately, I was in self catering for the rest of the time and established a once a term dinner party for friends, ideal example of what I love about sharing food while chatting. I started making cheesecakes for these dinner parties. It is a dessert my dinner guests over the years still request, which gives me pleasure to comply.
Good food, good company equals good fun. I do feel however, all mobile digital devices should be banned at the dinner table; it takes the pleasure out of being with people face to face.
Moving to Spain, however, was to prove an amazing experience for a foodie. Quality food is revered in Spain as it is in all Mediterranean countries. Having access to such fresh wonderful fruit and vegetables is a big plus. It is one of the things I miss – the quality of the fruit; fruit doesn’t travel well so it is picked for export before it is ripe and by the time it reaches the supermarket it has a powdery texture, which I find has a quite unpleasant mouth feel. There is no substitute for tree-ripened fruit, the flavour, the texture, and the juiciness.
I honed all my cooking skills while living in Spain, among them jam making. Childhood memories would come flooding back while walking through the market; remembering family picnics and the spotting of a wild raspberry bush was an occasion to stop and pick your own to make raspberry jam. I felt my grandmother’s presence as I passed the green grocers stalls groaning with crates of peaches saying eat me, make jam. Peach jam, conserved with a cinnamon stick, on toast adds cheer to any winter breakfast.
It was to prove challenging inviting Spanish friends to eat, while acknowledging Spanish cuisine is morish and full of flavour, and is very varied from region to region, they all began from the premise that Spanish food is the best in the world and British food is awful. My argument has always been the best food in the world is homemade with love. Over the years, I experimented with international dishes not wishing to cook Spanish dishes, which took me time to master. It was easy because of the variety of fresh ingredients on offer. Initially dubious at first about my Indian curries, my Chinese stir-fries and my Moroccan tagines, I won most of them over. The cheesecake was a hit from the beginning.
Then in 2008 came one of the worst pieces of news for a foodie. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Though having had an ongoing battle with my weight since my early teens, following Ayurvedic principles had proved to be the only diet that worked. Now I was in the hand of doctors, nurses, dieticians, given the 1500 calories diet sheet, as uninspiring and demoralising as you can get. It wasn’t until the end of 2012 when having another medication added to the diabetic cocktail, that I reacted very badly too, I took things back into my own hands. I did what I should have done much sooner and began doing my own research. One of the most significant discoveries was finding out about the Glycaemic index. The index tells you how quickly a certain food will convert into glucose the slower the better so low GI food is easier on the pancreas. At last I had a reason that made sense, suddenly I had a list of foods, information that awoke my creativity and restored my confidence in my cooking. Home made is better for everyone but especially with diabetes because all processed food is laden with hidden sugars, because it improves the taste, is a cheap conservative but is not good for anybody. My jam, well I am experimenting with less sugar, natural sugar substitutes and fusion flavours, it’s the making and creating I take pleasure in and I have always given most of my jam away as presents, which in itself brings its own joy.
Quotes on food.
“There is no sincere love than the love of food.” George Bernard Shaw
“Food is all those substances which, submitted to the action of the stomach, can be assimilated or changed into life by digestion, and can thus repair the losses which the human body suffers through the act of living.” The Physiology of Taste Brillat Savavin.
“Those who claim to be cooks must resort to all five senses to be truly cooks. A dish must delight they eye, the nose, and the taste buds of course but also ones senses of touch which diverts the chef’s choice on so many occasions and how its part is to play in the celebration of fine food.” The Gourmet Muriel Barbery