I don’t wish to sound fanatical as this is not about right or wrong, but rather about choice. We have the choice as to what role we wish food to play in our lives. For a working mom the instant meal is a time saver. For the mom who hasn’t stood on a chair next to the stove as a toddler and learnt the art of slow cooking, wisdom distilled through the ages and passed on through the generations, there is no short-term choice but to buy dinner. This is not bad if you see food as a commodity that simply serves to refill the tank.
There is, however, another way to look at food. Food is the fuel that nourishes your body and the choice and balance of food determines your energy levels. Good quality food leads to an improved functioning body. It also becomes the bricks and mortar of who we are, as proteins are the building blocks of the body. It stands to reason that the correct balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates allow us to build the body, nurture, protect and fuel it – all this while still being able to savour it at our leisure. What we put into our bodies and how we prepare it, in effect, becomes WHAT and ultimately WHO we are.
It doesn’t end here. Food is also cultural, in that the food a community eats, is a reflection of the produce available and their historical relationship with food. Think of an assado on an Argentinean hacienda – THINK MEAT; high tea in London, delicate pastries in Paris, simple poached salmon in Scotland, cassoulet in Carcassonne or seafood in the Mediterranean. Above all, note the stark differences in preparation, ingredients, presentation and rituals accompanying the occasion.
Food chosen from local ingredients reflects our culture, tradition, heritage and history. It is who we are as a people. If this is what food means to you, then you will know that the most important ingredients for a meal are fresh organic produce, patience and love. The importance of patience was best highlighted for me by an Indian friend who lets her curry simmer for a full day. The flavours are thus infused holistically and the sum becomes far greater than the parts.
Finally, food is a ritual; we sit down together, hold hands, say grace and thank provenance for the good fortune of being able to indulge in this, the greatest of human activities: mealtime. In all of this, the persistent thread is patience. These ideas are not unique and many of them are reflected in the work of the Slow Food Movement .
Now you too can come home in the evening, pour a glass of Avondale Camissa, assemble the ingredients, prepare the meal and savour the great joy of food as feast rather than function.