For the Love of Cooking

Oct 11, 2019

Known Design Co

Food has always been a BIG thing in our family – we celebrate everything and as often as possible. Life is too short not to, and we are so blessed to live an abundant life. Too blessed not to share this with others.
We break bread on Friday nights with the extended tribe, as my husband blesses the wine and welcomes in the new week and gives thanks for the week that was. Then we will have a long leisurely Sunday lunch, with a few prawns thrown in for good measure, along with the lamb chops on the braai!

We eat matzo on Pesach, celebrate Christmas with all the traditions, then hunt for Easter eggs and eat Hot Cross Buns, making bread and butter pudding with the left overs, , and of course we dip apples into the honey to ensure a sweet New Year on Rosh Hashana.
We do birthdays, and of course weddings in a big way, as we redo our vows every 5 years…. Any excuse for a good party!
And the central theme to all of these occasions is FOOD, glorious FOOD, and okay, some good wine thrown in too.
Food allows me to show love for others in an easy way, a physical manifestation of what I can’t always put into words. It is my language of love, personal and from my heart, and it is very powerful. The communal preparation and eating of food brings people together, and I find that this can dissolve any tensions that may be going on in the family. Our kitchen has always been the heart of the home. It’s the space we gravitate towards at the end of our day, where we catch up with what’s is going on in each other’s lives, and of course very often with a glass of wine in hand, as the two seem to work very well together.

What fascinates me over and over again is the ability of food and wine to heighten any experience and to bring people together. No matter how tiring your day has been, how many things you had to deal with, the stress and the pressure, when you grab that knife, pull out a wooden board and begin to chop, something happens.
We become grounded and focused, as when we have a sharp knife in our hand, or we are tasting a sauce to see exactly what it needs to make it perfect, we have to be very present, something we all strive for in our hectic lives. For a short while, the outside world ceases to exist, and we leave anything that was bothering us way behind. We create a meal that feeds and energizes not only the body, but also the soul, as it is food that is cooked with love and joy.

This gathering of the clan around the table is a tradition that was clearly born many generations ago, as I remember so many special occasions from my childhood. Food memories are powerful, and a mere whiff of cinnamon and warm spices can transport me back in a sec to another time and place. I see myself standing on a stool, “helping” Mom with the Christmas cake at that kitchen table, long wooden spoon in hand and small fingers dipping surreptitiously into the batter whenever I thought she wasn’t looking. I think fondly of sibling squabbling, and how much fun we had. It fills me with longing for a time when life was simple and secure. Where you knew what was expected of you, and you did it. When did it all become so complex!!!

When I see the freshest of produce glistening on the market shelves, and as I walk through aroma filled spice markets, with the splashes of bright colours and gorgeous textures, intuitively I start to compose a symphony in my head. Like a conductor, I cue in the various ingredients, carefully chosen, in perfect order and sequence, and a masterpiece is created. All the elements blend together in perfect harmony and balance, creating a dish that sings harmoniously ….. and pleases the palate.
I just had a profound realization….I am NOT a cook, I am a composer. Or am I a conductor? My instruments are the different ingredients I choose with care to put into the dish. I feel like a sorceress, brewing a magic potion, or a perhaps a magician with a wand in hand, as I call in the next ingredient to add into the mix, in the perfect timing, to create a balanced and harmonious melody of a meal. I literally see them flying through the air, and into the dish. Nothing jars, or is out of synch…. a masterpiece of a symphony is created.
We present these dishes beautifully, proudly and we enjoy the fruits of our labour, for it is indeed a labour of love, and this is tangible. Change one component, either an ingredient or a cooking method, or even the way it is presented, and the end result is completely different! How amazing is that, how endless are the choices we make, and how things turn out! Some of these are classics, and should remain as such, tried and true and pure, and some of them are modern or contemporary. These ingredients are interpreted differently in each country and they change and take on new forms with each generation.

Then there is the importance of the setting of THE TABLE, the ritual and the ceremony attached to eating consciously. Make it special, make it beautiful. Keep it simple, or go all out glamour… be creative, play! I am very much for making this an occasion where possible. A celebration of life, and a moment of gratitude for what you have. The more you put into it will always be the more you get out of it, one of nature’s laws.
Ours is a kitchen filled with joy, with so many beautiful moments are entrenched in the walls that it is palpable when you enter this space. It is all because of this room and the magic that has already happened. This is extremely powerful, and you cannot help but get touched by it.
Is this not our purpose in life, to find joy?
This is all part of the process of life, in a nutshell….. what you put into it, what you work with, and how you do this, all contributes to the end result. Each decision and every choice you make is vital in determining what the end result and outcome will be. Work with good ingredients, choose to do this as a labour of love, not grudgingly throwing it together, and see how it changes everything.

Now I encourage you to head for the kitchen, have some fun and make that magic happen!

By Denise Cowburn-Levy