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The art of eating

Thursday, 14th May, 2020 11:42am

A few years back I bought a small book at the airport (forgot where I was going) by Nigella Lawson called ‘Eating’.

In it were selections from her books ‘How to Eat’ and ‘Kitchen’, a few recipes and a lot of writing about the joy of cooking.

It was one of these buys where I expected something different – it was still a cookbook while I expected something similar to the ‘Art of Eating’ by MFK Fisher, published in 1954.

The art of eating doesn’t need to include the art of cooking – you can truly enjoy eating without having to slave away at the stove but as Nigella Lawson states in her book “you can ever really cook unless you love eating”.

I have met many people who called themselves foodies (still a word that makes me cringe) and followed trends and the current ‘must eat in’ places and talk a lot about it. For me, the art of eating is more than just a selfie opportunity (I have seen food bloggers who have attended food events, lifted a fork to their mouth, took a selfie and placed the fork back without eating a single morsel while the next day published a blog about the ‘awesome’ food they ate).

The art of eating starts with the anticipation of things to com - if you cook yourself or order in a restaurant. First, I imagine how the dish will look, how the wine is matched and the table is decorated.

When the dish arrives, I take a moment to take a photo (yes, I am one of these people who has more food photos on the phone than of people or places) but not too long as the temperature needs to be right to enjoy the full flavour. Looking at the dish, I think about the chef who has prepared the food, his/her technical skill and imagination.

When lifting the fork, I consider what to try first and in what order to ensure the maximum pleasure. Then comes the first bite – I try to identify herbs and spices, savour the aroma and taste and let the joy of eating encompass me in that particular moment.

Only then do I look up to see what my dining partner is up to and how she/he is enjoying the food.

I often find that I have been watched while indulging in this first bite. I was told that watching me eat is funny as I seem to forget everything around me for that first bite!

It is more than just the joy of eating – it is the appreciation for the skills of the chef, the quality of the produce and hard work behind each dish.

It is not just the cooking of the final dish but the long hours the farmer, fisher, baker, producer have put into bringing you the best food, for the chef to add his/her skill and create beautiful dishes.

When cooking at home, this appreciation extends to the preparation of the dish as well. I am not as skilful as most chefs (and I never assume I am) but I am a pretty good cook and I treat the ingredients with love and respect.

The anticipation starts already when I think about what to cook and who to cook for – nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing people enjoying the food I prepared for them – apart from eating with them!

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