picture courtesy of henderson-jo.blogspot.com
In this new World Food Order of "easy-peasy" cooking we currently inhabit, there's an underlying message that isn't expressed enough, or perhaps deliberately ignored and it's this: cooking is absolutely not easy. Yes, it's a pretty direct statement, but I don't believe I'd get any flack from anyone who works in the world of food for saying it. It takes hard, dedicated work to transform a raw ingredient into something edible. Unfortunately, that side of the culinary world has been overlooked now that the food industry has become shiny and glamourous.
Understand that I'm grateful for the creation of The Food Network, food-centred social media apps and sites and various TV food personalities who have introduced the joy of cooking to the masses. The push to make cooking look easy has worked spectacularly.
And now that people have embraced almost everything food-related, it has created a spinoff effect. It's almost like a brand new economy has been created for a world that was vastly (and in some cases, still) underpaid, under-appreciated, and just not understood. People are much more inclined to want to create memorable dishes and most importantly, are thrilled to share it with friends, family and total strangers via shared photo apps, videos and food blogs. Still, there's something missing, or just not being shared when it comes to the hard truth of cooking food. Is it because the labour details that go into food creation might frighten people? Can we not handle the truth?
Last night I had a dinner party with some close friends. I made a bouillabaisse soup (grouper fish heads replaced snapper and worked out perfectly), followed by a main course of potato gratin, sautéed spinach, and slow braised Lamb shanks. My guests loved every savoury minute of the meal and of course I was happy to make it.
The questions I get whenever I cook though, is, "Wow, this must have been a lot of work" or "This must have taken you a long time to make." The honest answers to both are "Yes, it was," and "Yes, it did." The meal did take hours of prep and cooking, and that includes planning the menu, creating shopping lists and hitting the grocery stores for the ingredients. It' definitely hard work - or should I say labour of love? Either way you view it, I know I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it.
I don't want cooking to ever be viewed as easy. I want people to know how much hard work goes into creating the foods we eat. On the flip side, I also want people to understand that for cooks - be it amateur or professional, the joy of cooking completely mitigates the hard work aspect of food creation. It is (almost) never viewed as work by the people who love it, and if it becomes that, it's time to leave the culinary world and do something else.
I'm glad it's reached a point now where we can tell people that you don't have to slave for hours over a stove to create fabulous meals, but I'm also clinging to my main message of long, hard work creating the best results. When you walk into the kitchen and start to work on your next culinary masterpiece, understand that it will take a great deal of time and it will not be easy. But the end result is seeing the looks of happiness and satisfaction on the faces of the people you're feeding, because they know that you cared enough to take the time to create something fabulous just for them.