Cooking can be an art or it can be a craft. A busy house father knocking up satisfying grub for his 3 kids, according to mum’s tested and trialed recipes, that’s a fine craft. Cooking for 3000 hospital patients: craft. Feeding the army: craft. A British seaside chef having a turn at creating authentic sashimi, using local fish for a high flying Japanese ambassador on a diplomatic visit: what a creative piece of art. Two 19 year old friends suffering from a severe case of munchies, launching a next level pizza-burger hybrid using strictly what they can find in their mum’s cupboard: definite art. Both cooking arts and crafts have their place in the human realm, a unique species in a sense that they like to refine and transform produce rather than ripping or grazing of the land. We are an adventurous bunch and we are in a bit of trouble, it seems we are soon running out of food. Will our artistic abilities save human kind?
A chesty Finish gentleman makes his way down to our kitchen and shakes my hand. ‘I never thought I’d say this chef, I’ve been here for a week and haven’t missed my meat once’. Coming from a guest who’s used to eating meat three times daily in his home country, this is beyond flattering. I don’t classify myself as a vegan chef, a raw food artist and certainly not as the next super food authority. I’m a cook, a very passionate one, and my mission is to offer nourishing and satisfying food which regenerates the planet as a whole, our precious bodies included. It’s that simple, yet not always easy.
The introduction of artificial fertilizer allowed us to grow 4 times more food than ever before and as a direct result our population rose from 1.7 billion to 7 billion in the last century. As our soils depleted, disease and pests started to thrive which we keep at bay with copious amounts of chemical pesticides. We witness more clever ways to rapidly empty Mother Earth of her natural resources, along with this a rise of financial wealth and meat consumption throughout the ‘developed’ world. Nowadays most crops never actually make it to your plate as they are grown to fuel machinery and animals to meet the demands of a mankind obsessed with material growth, fillet steak and our version of prosperity.
Awareness is key and by purchasing locally grown produce as close to their soil as possible you can get a clear picture of the impact your choices have on the web of life. I’m excited to share that there’s a wealth of tasty treats to be had right outside most doorsteps. The reason you never know what to cook is likely because of the overload of available products all screaming at you from their supermarket shelf. Skip all aisles and calmly step away from the imported grapes. You’d be surprised what you can come up with when all you have is 4 ingredients and a cast iron frying pan. Yes I am blessed to reside in the tropics where bounteous produce rules the ranks of our perma culture paradise. However, as I just returned from a late autumn stint in the Netherlands I can be positive that it is entirely possible, even enjoyable to truly only stick to seasonal, locally grown produce and still have the entire dining table applauding you.
This is the secret: only think of what to cook after you stocked up on ingredients. Keep an open mind. Be daring, creative and never afraid to fail. Let the dishes that you love inspire you and see if you can replace the traditional ingredients with the produce available. People often ask me: ‘how do you think of all this stuff?’ All I can say: every single one of us on this planet is a very experienced eater. Most of us have eaten a range of different foods and many of us have preferences. Look for those aspects that you enjoy about your favorite foods. Is it crunchy and creamy in the middle? (texture). Is it sweet and a little tangy? (taste) Is it floral and fragrant?(aroma). Now look at the ingredients you have and celebrate their qualities through practicing the art of creative cookery.
Here are 3 hints to get you started:
- A splash of soy sauce or miso paste adds real savory splendor, not just for Asian cooking
- Adding grated, starchy vegetables to a saucy dish and boiling it for a few minutes adds natural body and great texture
- Combine and balance sweet, savoury, salty, bitter and hearty tastes. A splash of vinegar in a stew, a pinch of salt in a dessert, you’d be surprised how this brings out the flavours
Get into the mood! Time to start experimenting!