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These are the building blocks of a slow cooked beef stew that I’ll set at 1pm, simmer away for 6 hours, and then eat with the kids when we get back from our crazy rounds of extra curricular activities.
One of the biggest passions of my life is FOOD. I spent the first 10 years of my life picking morosely at my meals; fussily rejecting anything white, anything with a sloppy texture, anything too strong flavoured/too bland, anything with fat or stringy bits on, anything too hot/cold, anything on the wrong-colour plate… etc. You get the picture.
Then suddenly, a revelation! At age 10, flavours began to zing, textures became interesting, the salt/sweet/sour/bitter combinations became fascinating. From that moment on, I ate as if I had to compensate for my early pre-epiphany years.
Now I have a complicated relationship with food. My biggest food battle these days is all about BALANCE. Of course, there’s the usual healthy food vs junk food and plenty of exercise blah blah…. But my particular challenge has been preparing Japanese food.
I should DEFINITELY eat more Japanese food – hell, we ALL should. It’s just so healthy, nutritious and tasty. But it’s not my comfort zone food. Although I have got better recently, cooking Japanese food usually leaves me in a sweaty, stressed mess. You can’t just stick a load of stuff in one pot and then dish it out later. You have to think about the balance between crunchy, silky, sticky and chewy; the salt, the sweet and the sour; the colours need to complement each other; even the plates should please the eye. And traditionally, an evening meal would consist of a protein (grilled fish, stir-fried slivers of meat, sliced chicken), a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup, a vegetable dish and pickles. And that’s the MINIMUM really. Minimum.
My mum can do all this with her eyes closed, but I painstakingly plan every Japanese meal, write down a list of ingredients, haul myself to the Chinese shop and buy Japanese stuff at great expense, only to find that I have been hoarding bagfuls of Japanese ingredients for ALL that Japanese cooking I don’t do at home (and a lot of it has gone out of date). Then I find the process of putting a meal on the table uses EVERY saucepan, every hob, every work surface, and sometimes even involves running – from cupboard to hob, from hob to fridge, from fridge to bin, from bin to utility room etc.
When the food miraculously arrives on the table, delicately arranged on several hand-painted plates, the family make all the right noises…and then it’s all gone in 10 minutes.
This is why making Japanese food tends to be more of a special occasion in our house, although I AM trying to up my game in this area! Whereas give me any European ingredients, and I’ll whip up a tasty dish in 30 minutes, and even wash up the one pot and spoon while the dessert chills in the fridge.
Well, today is definitely a ‘comfort zone’ day. It’s very cold, my feet are like blocks of ice, and by 4pm it’s going to be dark. Hence the beef stew.