The last few weeks, a couple good books and some observation have me questioning my approach to food.
We all seem to have our personality quirks and for me the thing that seems to taint all that I do, or aim to do, is a debilitating fear of failure. Whether it’s second guessing my every decision, over complicating a process or just self sabotage, this fear of failure is evident in nearly every endeavour.
I don’t especially like talking about it, because it’s often misinterpreted as a need to hear that you’re doing just fine, which isn’t really what I’m after, rather, I want to learn the art of not caring what others think and becoming a better, more confident cook.
So circling this back… I love dinner parties, I love cooking for friends but I find it equally terrifying that I’ll make some huge error should I try to go improvising or if I didn’t plan it all out ahead of time. It’s stressful to say the least and yet, I don’t want it to ruin my love of hosting and nourishing others. So after reading Julia Childs memoir and Kathleen Flinns book about teaching a group of 10 how to cook and being in the country of gastronomy, I am once again reminded that a failed meal is one failed dish in a lifetime of cookery. Everything I was reading was a good reminder to be creative and accepting a challenge is good for the soul, right? It’s also good to be reminded that a fridge full of food ends up a lot of wasted food if you can’t learn to improvise. What probably made this all the more evident wasn’t reading more about it but actually watching Jérémie in his own kitchen. He had me believing he couldn’t cook and never really did and when I looked into the fridge I thought, “dear Lord, there’s no FOOD in here!” I was worried there wouldn’t be anything for dinner, a healthy fear of course. Somehow, night after night he’d say, “Why don’t you read your book in the living room and I’ll prepare dinner,” and a half hour later, he had found what was left in the fridge, in the cupboards and made an entire meal that was satisfying and kept anything from going in the garbage. Yesterdays leftovers became just another ingredient in the following nights meal. For someone who didn’t cook often, I felt a little bewildered that he had acquired a skill I felt I clearly did not have. How could he see a meal when all I could see was a baren fridge? Evidently this book, this experience, all came together at exactly the right moment.
So this week I’ve been working on the idea of reinventing my approach to food, to not worry so much about a recipe, or having all the right ingredients or even having a fully stocked fridge. So far, so good. This week in my attempt to “chill out” the nerves in the kitchen, and a new kitchen to boot… I’ve made a warm mango, sage, coconut and hazelnut salad on greens in a butter and lemon dressing as well as a “clean out the fridge pasta” using my leftover pepper, grape tomatoes, onion, garlic and pinenuts with a little drizzle of basil olive oil at the end. There were other great dishes this week too but these are the two I photographed and it’s nice to know that there’s, somehow, always a little food in the fridge ready to be made into a meal. I’m hoping that as the days and weeks progress it’ll just get easier and easier. I’m sure the harder days are yet to come but I’ve already surprised myself a couple times over this week.