Wednesday, April 17

Recipe for Satisfaction: Cook and Take Life One Meal at a Time | Meal


I I used to envision myself as a special occasion cook, marinating and cutting down to the occasional wonder, but since the lockdown I’ve mostly taken over, with as little control as I can muster, making my full share of proper family meals, well. Does that count as a hobby? Of course not. But when you write, read, roam, and watch for a living, it may feel like all of life is a form of lonely indulgence, so the distractions I long for are generally communal and simply practical.

That sentiment has become more urgent in the past two years. After working from home for a couple of decades, he was used to being mostly alone with the contents of the refrigerator. Now, there were four of us in the house, zooming in and writing essays and lecturing online and the days seemed to call for different kinds of punctuation marks.

Some things conspired to make that effort seem more like an adventure than a chore. During some of those weeks and months, bubbling in and out, we were joined by my daughter’s boyfriend, James, who is a vegetarian. It seemed like a good time for all of us to cut out the meat, so we happily focused our minds as well – how do we create flavor and variety without the reserve of a slab of protein? (Most of the best answers I found were inevitably plagiarized by Anna Jones, Ottolenghi, or Mr. Slater.) Then there was the question of supply. I stopped going to supermarkets altogether and got to know the strengths and weaknesses of local greengrocers; my 10,000 steps were usually headed toward a mission for tarragon or chard. And then, I guess, mental health.

The real challenge of a life of blank pages to fill on screens has always been, for me, how to negotiate that change early in the evening so as not to think all the time about filling the blank pages on screens. Suddenly, in the absence of the possibility of ever going out, chopping herbs, crushing garlic and rolling cakes seemed like a much better strategy for that gear change than simply opening another bottle of wine (although that happened often, too).

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Searching North London for the freshest mackerel.
Searching North London for the freshest mackerel. Photograph: Daisy-Daisy / Alamy

As I write this, I realize that for many people, particularly from and in countries and cultures where food preparation is indistinguishable from the normal flow of life, the idea of ​​cooking as a new hobby can seem somewhat perverse or absurd. But, in small, ridiculously late ways, I found that the new habit of starting the day discussing what’s for lunch or dinner and then doing those things, together or alone, to the best of your ability, upsets the balance of how you think about things. challenges of the day. We are always fed the lie that our psychological tranquility lies in greater comfort, speed, in avoiding complications and difficulties; that life is a battle for me, time; that work is the enemy and leisure the goal. It almost goes without saying that those ideas empty life rather than fill it, and lose the texture of what makes most days worth living: doing things as slowly and as well as they demand (even if only it’s all about making a great omelette), mastering the skills for your own good, looking for tomatoes that taste like tomatoes.

Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to meet or write about some people for whom that speed of life has been second nature. Most of the time they have been people who have learned to keep pace with the days and seasons, rather than trying to force time according to their own will. I once spent a few days in the Provencal house owned by Richard Olney, author of The French menu cookbook, who was instrumental in reminding western cooks that food was all about rooting. Or I think of Simon Hopkinson, former chef at Hilaire and Bibendum, whose eyes lit up when he described the thrill of finding mackerel at the market that morning so fresh it was still a little curly, and coming home to cook it. If there had been a rulebook to make the last two years a little more bearable, to me it certainly would have involved Hopkinson’s mantra from his Roast chicken and other stories: “It is important to cook in the right frame of mind (we are not talking about everyday chores here) and to do things in the correct order. Ergo: feel hungry; Go shopping with a pen, paper, and money. See good things, buy them. Write down any additional items that will accompany previous purchases. Come home. Have a glass of wine. Cook the food and eat. “

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If I’m honest, the first two entries on that list have always been the biggest challenge for me. While I was somewhat envious of the joy that people like Hopkinson found in mastery, I realize that I have tended to accept that such a commitment might be beyond me. Growing up, I had a powerful feeling, I think, that unlike the men of my father’s generation, I would always be a corner cutter, a bit overwhelming when it came to practical tasks, a DIY, a hobbyist. instead of perfectionist.

One of the things cooking has taught me in recent months is that that kind of self-image maybe, even in your (sometimes terribly) fifties, can be unlearned and rewritten. Sometimes late at night, as I turn off the lights in the house or carry the dishwasher, I find myself counting the day that just ended, in the Ronnie Barker way, as I used to close the store in Open all hours. Lately, it’s been nice to have some new lines in that internal voiceover, along with count of incomplete tasks and worries to sleep on: “That watercress sauce wasn’t bad at all, was it?” or “next time, I think, a little less cinnamon in those poached pears.”

How to do it

Ravneet gill’s Damson Jelly Academy offers online tutorials for beginners and The Bertinet Kitchen, is run by baker Richard Bertinet from his base in Bath. Give it a try for your bakery, classic pastry and pastry courses. Wok school It teaches you dishes from most of the cuisines of South, East, and Southeast Asia. Leiths You have options ranging from enthusiast online classes to professional courses. Migrant is a charity that offers refugee and migrant classes. You have the opportunity to learn to cook food from another culture; your chef gets training and employment.

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To sample recipes from the chefs who have inspired Tim Adams, Anna Jones offers courses online or search for her book. The year of the modern cook. Roast chicken and other stories by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham is as pleasant to read as she is to prepare dishes. For new recipes from Nigel Slater, read his weekly column at the Observer Magazine.


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