This afternoon I ate the best meal I had in a long, long time.
Since we’ve had kids, Heike and I have slowly weaned ourselves off our culinary obsessions. We have always loved food. It is part of what binds us together. The love for preparing new meals, and exploring new tastes. Different cuisines. We love that. I was obsessed with that. But kids and culinary. It’s somehow not compatible. The first year they are not supposed to eat salt. Or anything other than bland steamed veggies, to be honest. And I hate having to keep separate pots and pans for prepping boring mush on the side. We were busy enough already, so we often opted for easier and easier meals, leaving our recipe books on the shelf, and the culinary freestyling to deteriorate. Kids really took the fun out of cooking, at least for me.
And I sort of forgot, you know, that cooking brought me joy. That it calms my mind.
That food can warp you to other places. That it can bring back memories.
I silently and subconsciously accepted that the food would be boring for a while. But the kids would grow up, and we would probably slowly be able to pick up again. Or so I told myself.
Then we got a second child.
Well you can guess how it went from there.
Cooking. Food. They disappeared entirely from my radar.
We have cooked fresh meals daily. Healthy meals – the kids need healthy meals. But they were boring meals.
I started hating cooking. It wasn’t cooking anymore, not to me. It was prepping something to fill a void. Four empty stomachs. Nutrient paste. Devoid of any herbs, spices. Just meh. I just couldn’t really enjoy making it without enjoying the end product. And becautthe end product was meh, the process became meh.
We started ordering takeout food more and more. Most restaurants here are pretty miserable. Fucking hell. There are some reasonable Indian places. Everything else is a waste of money. Give me a kitchen, ingredients and time, and I will make better pizza, pasta, Vietnamese, Thai or Japanese than any of the stuff I could order here.
Last week I decided it was time to finally taste something again. I dusted off our copy of Ottolenghi’s Flavour, and just randomly snapped some pictures of pages that looked good. After three years of buying basically the same shopping list every week, I was low on inspiration. Ottolenghi is always a good place to start.
It’s hard to find decent quality herbs here, but I got some reasonable cilantro, some dill and mint. (Note to self: sow some fucking herbs for on the terrace)
This morning Heike and I just teamed up and cooked up a spicy aubergine salad with fresh herbs and garlic oil, accompanied by oven-baked spicy potatoes with cilantro chutney and toasted nigella and mustard seeds.
It was 45 minutes work from start to table.
The kids let us play.
Our lunch wasn’t anything special. But it was better than anything I’ve ordered or cooked in three years (maybe a Christmas dinner excluded).
It fired up my taste buds, it opened my eyes…
I think we should learn how to cook again! I need to become obsessed again. I’ve missed it.