A well-prepared, thoughtful meal is a celebration of life and of love. Cooking is the ultimate expression of true sensuality, passion, and love. When it is done well, it is the essence of a life well lived. Eating and drinking are among the greatest pleasures in life. Preparing a meal is the beginning. When we take the time to cook food well, we take the time to eat slowly, taste our food, engage in conversation, experience with one another, and enjoy the moment. Nothing is more primal than the desire for love and connecting with what it means to be human. Sustenance is intrinsically linked to that connection. Emotion is felt in the stomach: sadness, fear, happiness, passion, and bliss. Hunger feels reminiscent of butterflies in the stomach.
Being fearless and adventurous with ingredients and preparations is the key to passionate cooking. Dare to throw away your recipes and ‘paint with food,’ be creative, be bold, be an artist. It’s not about necessarily about training, but paying attention helps. My favorite food is fairly restrained and simple but it is still creative. Not everything needs to be a complicated fusion mess of flavors and textures. Pairing a fresh watercress salad with steamed asparagus, leeks, crumbled bacon, and a couple of over easy, fried eggs sprinkled with tarragon is simple and delicious. Add a crisp, cool glass of Chablis and it is heavenly.
Cooking well is about knowing yourself and knowing your surroundings. Being connected to your food is about being connected to the land; it’s about something real. Don’t be afraid to taste some dirt. Plant some herbs or visit a farm. Know where your food comes from. Cooking well implies opening yourself up to diversity in culture, flavor, texture, scent, and color from the world. Perhaps you are traveling to foreign lands or simply traveling vicariously through the cuisine you prepare. It’s about exploring. Living.
When I am dreaming of France I cook simply, yet beautifully. Every time I braise coq au vin or taste a gorgeous Chinon I am transported. While fantasizing about Italy, I make a frothy cappuccino, sprinkled with cocoa and nibble on a crunchy, handcrafted, pinon nut biscotti or I sip smoky Aglianico.
If I crave Spain, I prepare Paella. I painstakingly select every ingredient from the fragrant saffron threads to the freshest scallops, mussels and clams I can find in my mid-western desert. I play Paco de Lucia in the background and serve my guests cool, floral, Albarino. We dine on my creation, drizzled with Vinegar de Jerez and smoked paprika, garnished with lemon and a bit of ripe, red pepper…and we dream.
Living in the city can be isolated and lonely at times. We are busy. We are stressed. Cooking a meal is a perfect time to reconnect with humanity and our loved ones. It begins when I select the dish or menu. I visit the markets to select the freshest ingredients. And then, I cook, and I cook well.
Cooking is the ultimate expression of true sensuality, passion, and love. It is the essence of a life well lived. Eating and drinking are among life’s greatest pleasures. Preparing a meal is the beginning.