Thursday, May 22, 2008

Love Your Food And Your Food Will Love You Back

When I was at uni and used to share my flat with the most adorable Japanese girl ever, I thought that only really boring people, or indeed she, would be interested in food. This girl was a handful of years older than me and completely passionate about cooking. When I would stumble into the kitchen late at night, frazzled by fencing practice, scoffing vile biscuits purchased at the shop on the corner, she would be sizzling vegetables in a wok, ebony hair scraped back, white bathrobe impeccable despite the sprouting stove. I never thought I would turn into her but fact is, I have. It started during my leave from work when attempting some baking seemed like a good way to do something other than physiotherapy or reading in bed, sore back permitting. It all rapidly escalated into an ever-expanding food library and a collection of kitchen gadgets I am desperately trying to find a reason to use. It delighted me that Pixar's latest, Ratatouille, was not simply about someone whose pre-determined path forbade wild dreams, but that it was also about food.

Tonight, when I surveyed my slightly depressing fridge, as it always is towards the end of the week, I found an half-empty can of coconut milk and a jar of French mustard. I love all mustard you see, but the French one gets my vote. I just cannot get enough of its paint-stripping quality as it raises from my palate to my nose and there it explodes, turning me into a sniffling, but very happy, culinary wreck. I thought of Remy and of his description of putting together two tastes to create something new, fireworks dancing on one's tastebuds as new flavours are released.

I wish I had taken a pic of my flageolet noix de coco mutarde, a mix of hot flageolet beans dressed in French mustard with a dash of coconut milk. I absolutely loved it as Anton Ego would say. Stiff food critic Ego is a professed food-lover, even though a touch too thin for someone that really loves food (never trust a thin cook and all that...), yet he dispenses words of wisdom we can all do with. 'I don't like food, I love it. If I don't love it, I don't swallow'.

I think we should all apply this philosophy. These words often ring in my ears as I aimlessly scour the offerings at the canteen, ogling the limp beets and tasteless pickles. How can a pickle of all things be tasteless? Trust me, the canteen at work manages it. Since I first watched Ratatouille, I made Ego's words my lunchtime mantra, and I say lunchtime because this is the meal I consume away from home; I would be insane to cook food I do not love to eat, but when one has no control over the ingredients and their combination, less than exciting tasting experiences abound. Thinking about Ego has drastically cut down the number of so-and-so meals I have had. I don't grab any longer the anaemic hummus wrap or the soap-like mozzarella or the slimy avocado salad. I have reduced my meals to grapes and water or whatever I have had the time to prepare the night before in a fit of super-organisation. And guess what, I feel better for it. I am certain I would even trim down slightly if I only ever ate food I love. Playing just ten minutes of Ratatouille lifts my spirits when I feel not so great. It inspires me to get creative even when the fridge is empty. It is one of those stories that reminds me all the time that really great movies have an elusive quality to their core that makes them wonderful and timeless. It cannot be explained. To paraphrase Jack Black, if you don't get it, I am afraid you're a cinematic idiot, and I feel sorry for you.
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