My first love

La vita è bella

Those of you that know me know that I love food. There are a lot of people that love food, and I think that the majority of people grow to love food as they get older and their ‘palettes’ develop (or at least that’s what those of us with fussy partners, children and close friends tell ourselves in the hope that one day we might be able to enjoy olives and red wine with them). My parents will nonetheless testify to the fact that I have loved food since the moment that I first breathed air. As a baby, I used to devour French-set yogurts, cubes of cheese, and pretty much anything that was set in front of me. One of my particular quirks, as I grew a little older, was eating baked beans cold, straight from the tin. Well I still do that occasionally.

I’m also very lucky that I’ve grown up with parents who can cook, and cook really well (I know that we all rave about our Christmas dinners, but I haven’t come across anything that can touch my Mum’s). Yet their individual experiences of cooking have been totally different from one another; my Mum was a straight-A Home Economics student and my Dad was never really allowed into the kitchen until he left home and moved in with my Mum. On the one hand, then, I’ve learnt to be methodical and practical as a cook, learning and memorizing recipes (I know how to make madeira cake, meringue and béchamel sauce and would never dream of tampering with something that I know to work so well), and on the other I’ve learnt to do things a little fast and loose, using what I have and making things up as I go along. As a child, my parents and my Nan would cook with me, getting me to add, mix, and, most importantly, lick the spoon. I never really envisaged myself becoming a chef, but cooking became a hobby that I really loved, and aspired to be great at.

Of course, credit where credit is due, I have also had the privilege of knowing and loving a man for the past ten and a half years whose Italian roots meant that he brought a lot to the culinary table. Italian food has always been amongst my favourite cuisines: pizza napoletana (which no pizzeria that I’ve ever been to in England seems to get right), spaghetti carbonara (the simple and ONLY way with raw egg and no cream), linguine gamberi, insalata di frutti di mare, torta di ricotta…the list is truly endless. At the beginning of this year, we went to see Julian’s Italian family for a few days, and it was my first experience of visiting the beautiful Alpine piedmont region in the winter, and my first experience of the liquid heaven that the Italians call ‘cioccalata calda’ (hot chocolate). No ordinary hot chocolate, this stuff is so thick that you can literally stand your spoon up in it, and I’ve been obsessed with trying to replicate it since we’ve been home.

Okay, so now I feel like I’m going off on a bit of a tangent. But food seems to do that to me. I get one thing in my head, and then I start to think about something else, generally starting by planning what I want for lunch, and then dinner and then moving on to the weekend brunch, and before I know it I’ve planned the next dinner party. There’s rarely an hour that goes by when I’m not thinking of food in some capacity and no doubt my friends get a little sick about me talking about it. Certainly, when I worked with my Probation colleagues, it became a bit of a running joke, and if ever I was absent from my main office for a day or two, they would always be sure to reserve me a bit of someone’s birthday cake or the last mince pie. You’d better not even get me started on gypsy tart.

All that said, I feel that I’ve been rather neglectful of my first love in recent months. Since starting my PhD, a lot has gone by the wayside, and I haven’t had time to do the necessary and important things like wash clothes and bed sheets (thanks to those that have picked up the slack), let alone cook and enjoy the food that I love. This is not an entirely bad thing. I’ve enjoyed lots of pennoni con salsiccia (courtesy of Julian), some great roast dinners and some wonderful dinners out (my favourite haunt at the moment is a little Persian restaurant just off of Leicester Square – ideal for a post-seminar or post-library nosh-up). It’s not quite the same as cooking your own, though, and getting that sense of pride from a job well done. So last night I decided to go all out, dust off one of my (many) recipe books and make a beef wellington with a French twist (thanks, Rachel Khoo). The end result was rather satisfying, and I hope that Julian would agree.

No doubt this won’t be my last post on food, and I invite other food lovers to share their favourite recipes (I’m talking about those ginger biscuits, Paul!), innovations, variations and general anecdotes about food. Food does so much for us, and we owe it to food to show it a little love from time to time, wouldn’t you agree?


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  1. Nicole Willson says:

    A blog that all lovers of food should indulge in:

  2. Nicole Willson says:

    Another one that looks promising: