Monday, 9 January 2012

food for thought

One of the lovely things about staying with my dad is eating lots of delicious food. He and his wife are real foodies: they take their food seriously! Dad's wife takes photos of every special meal. All the photographs in this post were taken by her.

Today I want to give you an idea of how they cook and eat, and think about what inspiration normal people (with kids, crappy UK weather, less money, more laziness etc.!) might take from all the goodness.
watermelon radishes, with radish & cucumber
They grow their own vegetables and shop at farmers' markets. They take a lot of care of the aesthetics and presentation of food, like the pretty watermelon radish, above. My dad always, always makes his own bread.
steaming the baguettes
He makes bread almost every day. For us he made special French baguettes using an authentic recipe and lots of steam.
perfect home-made baguettes
They tasted so good! 
barbecued beef fillet on new year's eve
They went to town on new year's eve, with beef fillet on the barbecue (soft, tender, smokey), romanesco cauliflower and a host of other tasty dishes. We were also treated to plenty of flavoursome wines.
making lasagna pasta
Dad also makes his own pasta. On Boxing Day, for our main Christmas supper (since we'd arrived from England on Christmas day) he made "Renaissance Lasagne", i.e. an Italian recipe from the 16th-century. He finds a lot of inspiration on the internet (the original recipe is here).
Renaissance lasagne in the making
But he always makes the recipes his own. He simplified this recipe and sent it to us (and you can download a .pdf file of it here). He omitted the tomato paste because the point is it has no tomato in it - the recipe comes from a time before tomatoes even came to Italy (they originated in South America fyi!)
another layer
The combination of spices and textures and flavours was unbelievably wonderful. Both my husband (who is pretty down-to-earth about food and loves a good junk food fix) and I felt we would never again feel satisfied with ordinary lasagne!

While I can't imagine ever taking food as seriously as my dad does (like taking a 4-hr round trip to buy meat or ordering special bread flour from France), I found it inspiring to enjoy food like this - not as a chore or something to feel guilty about but as a pleasure worth paying attention to. I've thought about it and these are the things I'd like to incorporate into my own life - not all the time, but as much as possible:

  • take care over how food looks: because a little bit of prettiness never hurt anyone, but mostly because it makes you look at it and notice it, rather than just mindlessly wolfing it down.
  • buy the best ingredients you can afford: because it's amazing how lovely healthy food is when it actually has some taste! I will definitely be making more of an effort to find quality ingredients.
  • DIY: because homemade almost always tastes better. Sure, we're mostly too busy to make Renaissance lasagne with hand-rolled pasta! But I have my bread-maker and only need to remember to throw in the ingredients at night to wake up to fresh-baked bread in the morning.
  • worry about flavours, not nutrition: contraversial, maybe, but I think worrying over nutrients and fat/sugar content (as I often do) takes the soul out of cooking and eating. I am starting to believe that the route to healthy eating is actually just enjoying a wide variety of food flavours, which naturally ensures you get the nutrition you need.
I'm not making resolutions this new year, but keeping these ideas in mind as I shop, cook and eat is going to be the closest I'll get to them!

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