Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Never Eat The Same Meal Twice

I once read an article by former New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser that really stuck in my mind. It was advice to aspiring food writers that they should never eat the same meal twice. I can't say I live and die by that information, there are just meals out there that you want to eat a thousand times (hello Vietnamese Pho). But her voice seems to enter my head regularly, reminding me to expand my horizons and not to get stuck in a rut and constantly cook and eat old favourites.

It is amazing how one simple idea can change your whole way of thinking. I have always been quite an adventurous cook. I was bought up to be adventurous with food, there was not a plate of meat and three veg in sight in our household. Some of my first food memories are mum's steaming fresh home-made chapatis and you wouldn't catch a vegetable on my dinner plate unless it was in mum's pungent Chinese stir fry sauce. There were no bottled sauces, everything was made from scratch and dad was just as accomplished as mum in the kitchen. I went for many years insisting on Thai Green Curry at least once a week and rice was my staple diet. It was an environment that fostered adventurous eating and despite a lull in my twenties where microwave alfredo was a go-to dinner item I have followed along the path of expanding my food horizons.

In my thirties this exploded. I think it was after my husband and I started experimenting with curries. It opened a whole new world of home cooking to the extreme where many hours if not days could be lost to a curry. Then with the considerable expansion of my cookbook collection which opened many more culinary doors I became a lost cause.

With Amanda in my ear I now march forward with experience in mind, Amanda also said in the same article "if you want to be knowledgeable about food you need to experience it yourself." Since then I have made sure I try out recipes that are not at face value "appealing". They may not be a ten out of ten dish but they are an experience. It is a worthy cause to try unfamiliar ingredients, cuisines and techniques. They can be one off attempts just to taste new flavours or they can lead you down a rabbit hole, possibly to wonderland. I recently made a Mexican pork stew. It had none of the upfront appeal of tacos or burritos, fresh herbs and spicy sauces. It wasn't sexy like tex-mex or fashionable like Korean-Mexican fusion. It was at it's core Mexican home cooking and that is a part of the beauty. It was unlike anything I had had before, it was earthy and honest and reminded me of a Mexican Mole sauce although this didn't have chocolate. It fitted with Amanda's ethos perfectly, it was traditional Mexican food but it was new to me. I have now added it to my food memory and expanded my knowledge of Mexican food beyond it's former confines.

Eating new things consistently makes you realise how you are limited by your experiences. You can impose a narrow view on yourself, one that you are completely in control of. It is as simple as trying something new and you can open doors and worlds and experiences that can change your perspective forever. Keep that in mind when you next go to cook your go-to dish, be it Bolognaise or Tacos, whatever it is just think of mixing it up, pull out a cookbook and give something new a go. Trust me, over time it will change your world.
Originally posted on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 by