Opinion: The joy of cooking …

Over the past 12 months or so, I, like many others, have made jams and pickles, fermented yoghurt and kombucha, and perfected my sourdough. I’ve made lots of curries and discovered new vegetable dishes. I’ve read cookbooks that I bought some time ago but had since languished on the kitchen shelf.

I’ve cooked for the family, sometimes preparing take-home care packages for the kids. But mostly I’ve cooked just for the two of us – and preparing three-course meals soon became impractical, ostentatious and resulted in lots of leftovers … too much even for the Beagle!

To break the cycle and to support our ailing hospitality industry, we’ve also had takeout. Some excellent premium home-delivered meals – the result of the COVID-inspired pivots. During the lockdowns we agreed that once the pandemic is “over” (whatever that means), we’d exit the kitchen as soon as possible for our favourite restaurants.

Now that things are more relaxed, we are all gradually gaining confidence and venturing out to dine. Many of the better places have pared down their menus and focused on more casual eating – which is great for regular meals out … although this can also be a challenge as the best places are very popular, and with reduced capacities, are often difficult to get into!

But I also love to cook. And whilst dining out is both fun and a source of entertainment, what I miss most of all, are the dinner parties. Food is about nurturing. Good food brings people together. It is a social experience; one of the simple pleasures of life. I love the creativity, the organisation, the seduction of all of our senses and the sounds of happy diners. Preparing food, and cooking, is therapy for the mind and soul. It is relaxing, healing and fulfilling. My happy place. We share food with those we love and those we want to embrace. Often, we go to much more trouble and expense when serving food to strangers, than we do for normal day-to-day nutrition.

So now, after more than a year of cooking the same practical meals for two, I can now start preparing the communal feasts I’ve missed so much. I’ve been sifting through my cookbooks seeking inspiration and visualising the meals I might eagerly put together. I’ve dusted off the KitchenAid mixer, found my utensils and recreated my mise-en-place. I’m looking forward to the rhythm of the kitchen, the conviviality, the commensality, the conversations and plenty of laughter on our deck.

It’s not just that I want to impress my friends (I do, secretly, of course; please like me!), or fire up the wood-fired pizza oven and break out the good wine. It’s also that there’s a plethora of recipes that I want to try, that take time and effort, that just aren’t for two. And whilst I am a keen advocate of our wonderful hospitality industry, I’m also excited to welcome back intricate, involved homemade meals that express my passion and the overall joy of cooking. Tchin-tchin.

By Jeremy Ryland

Image credit: Photo by Toa Heftiba Şinca from Pexels

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