How not reading cookbooks any more made me a cleaner and more creative cook.
I have a confession, I love cookbooks - and I know that I am not alone. I love the photography, looking at the tableware items within the shot - and coveting and collecting many of them. Dreaming of travel, of flavours, or colour, textures, ceramics and more. If you love a cookbook, you know that they can be so much more than that.
I love the way it screams possibility, it takes me on an adventure, it makes me want to make three dishes instead of one, to create an event rather than a meal. To put on music, pour a class of wine and create until my heart is content - and then share it with friends.
A smile creeps over my face just thinking about it.
Life gets busy though, or your friends and family are further apart - the lazy reisling and never-ending cups of tea become an espresso before work, or quick bowl of pho at the end of the day en route home. Perhaps there are even a few kids underfoot.
This isn’t a bad thing, but something happened when this transition happened that I couldn’t quite put my finger on - I just couldn’t articulate what didn’t sit right in my heart.
I didn’t open cookbooks any more.
It almost made me feel a loss of some kind.
The thought of perusing online was no better, either getting half caught in this exploration and ending up with 50 tabs opened and another 10 saved recipes to my Pinterest board - or I googled the main ingredient I felt like using.
I certainly didn’t sit on the couch with 3 beautiful spine bound books open at once on my lap, with an open heart and inquisitive mind, ready to go on an armchair adventure. I couldn’t afford the time, the brain space, and sense of play that came alongside that much-loved activity. That doesn’t make me as happy write that, to be honest.
What happened instead was something that took too a long time to realise and was the solution all along - it was these 4 steps below that had me bumbling along with my style of food, food prep and recipe creation.
I hope you can get something from it too.
1. I would look at picture, and create what I thought it was with the skill that I had.
I looked at the ingredients I had on hand, and that determined my starting point
2. I prioritised using less.
I honed in on try to do more with less, less steps, less time, less washing up. Less packaging too, which meant that I made decisions based on ingredients that were filled to brim with great nutrients.
3. I still created to impress, but made it worth my time.
I would create things that I could make once and then use in many ways (clever condiments), in no time at all, to create deeply nourishing food that appeased the eye too.
4. Presentation was still important.
I think this lies in the ability to gloss over inconsistencies by sliding into the finish line with a meal that could have some dressed peppery rocket, some pomegranate jewels and scattered seaweed scattered on the top to make everything better.
Further more, it still allow me to connect with the feeling of creating beautiful nourishing meals to be consumed together with who ever was around.
So there you have it.
No michelin star, masterchef worthy, 20 step and 30 ingredients adventures with dishes piled as high as the wine bottles stacked precariously against the door. Just simple and flavoursome combinations, simple techniques and steps and still serve as inspiration so that I could assemble a meal based on how I felt that day.
…and it took an disproportionate amount of time to realise that I wasn’t alone, and that so many people in my life were looking for the same thing.
My mistake had been in thinking that I was alone, that I was glossing over some perceived imperfection of mine and that I was doing it wrong by, well, cheating, I suppose.
I am a Nutritionist and Wholefoods Chef, after all, right? It seems that I still wanted the same things as you though.
We are still chasing the same feeling of creating deeply nourishing food, and deeply nourish moments, I just go about getting the same feeling a little differently now. This is paying homage to that in some little way.
It is my sincere hope that my recipes in my books and on this blog allow you to feel the joy of being creative and providing food for those that you love, whether it be every day fodder or a dinner party. That you still get to feel that the food in a unique expression of you, but helped by my years of studying nutrition and experimenting in the kitchen.
To still feel the pride of creating impressive food, and the soul-fill heartfelt joy of playing you connection and joy of sharing food - even if it is without the unfurling sense of occasion that once we could indulge in at a moment’s notice