When I’m in the kitchen, I act as if I’m the star of my own cooking show. I detail every aspect of the recipe to the tea
spoon for my non-existent fan base; describing the taste and texture of the fusion that’s magically bubbling away in my cauldron pot. To make it even more legitimate, I add a pinch of fancy jargon (‘balance of flavours’, ‘respect the ingredient’ and ‘the star of the dish’ are the most common), and showcase an endearing idiosyncrasy (my bum-shaking/head-bobbing/pan-stirring action) inspired by the likes of the great lisp of Jamie Oliver. Yep if Law school doesn’t work out, cooking is my plan b, followed closely by floristry.
Rule: When Hannah enters the kitchen, everyone exits the kitchen. It’s my domain. Indeed, my perfectionism and compliment hoarding is imminent when I’m cooking. You see, if the flavours are skilfully balanced… if the ingredient is respected…. and if the star of the dish shines brightly…. well, without sounding selfish, I want ALL the credit. But I am well aware that this is a risky move, especially if I present a dish that would burst Ramsay’s head into confetti… Kitchen fails are all my fault; blame cannot be distributed amongst anyone else.
BUT NEVER FEAR. As a budding economist, I’ve implemented an array of safeguards to minimise foreseeable risk and ensure maximum brownie points (no pun intended). For example:
1) Meat undercooked? Add a few salad leaves and you’ve made yourself a Carpaccio
2) Cold Soup? Chill! Call it Vichyssoise and you’re covered.
3) ‘This fish is raw’; No. It’s SASHIMI you uncultured prune.
4) Damn! The ice-cream has melted; oh well, crème anglaise it is.
5) Meringue messed up? More like ETON MESS-ed up. Boom. Everyone loves a good eton mess. Perfect with failed ice-cream, I mean crème anglaise.
And if worse comes to worse, cover the mains in decorative rocket leaves, prissy flowers or parmesan, icing-sugar the life out of your dessert…aaaand presto, it’s perfecto. Also, I recommend naming your dish in a way that rules out any comparative standard. After all, the quality of your ‘brownie’ will instantly be measured against the calibre of the best brownie your guests ever eaten. Thus, give your dish an ambiguous name. I’m talking vague to the extent that cryptanalysis’s would struggle to decipher any meaning. For example, prepare your diners for ‘a slice of heaven’, or a ‘chocolate lover’s delight’. Heck, take it a step further and cross language borders, like ‘mucho perfecto’ (this is pretty fail proof). Final tip, become friends with the term ‘deconstructed’. It’s supposed to look like that; it’s called post-modern dining.
Growing up in a Greek house, I’ve been programmed to love cooking, and to love eating. But truly, I love the pleasure a yummy meal can bring to others. And I guess I love the intimacy of it all; the close selection of ingredients, their careful preparation and combining them together in different ways to create something inspired and thoughtful. I often find myself surprised at how my two hands, a bunch of stuff from Woolies and a few standard kitchen gadgets can amalgamate to produce a stunningly holistic dish. It’s even more satisfying when you get creative; when the meal is improvised from the bits and bobs left over from dinner the previous night.
I am always struck by the emotional attachment we have with the foods we eat. Sniffing the sizzle of onions and garlic in a fry pan conjures memories of my grandmother’s sumptuous roast on a warm summer evening. The slippery surface of stringy noodles instantly reminds me of the times my mother, father, brother and I would sneakily scoff Thai takeout whilst watching ‘Funniest Home Videos’ on a Saturday night. And dodgy pizza and kebabs? Well I am a uni student…. and there’s plenty of late night memories latched onto those delightfully awful treats that I do not wish to disclose!
I guess that’s what people mean when they say when they finish their meal and say ‘Hannah, that was you on a plate’. My dish, my story. And the same applies with the people around me. My Yiayia (grandmother) is the best cook I know. And it’s a true joy watching her face glow with excitement as I eat her delicious food. A childhood of poverty is definitely evidenced on the plate with the rustic, peasant-style stews and roasts that leave her kitchen. Similarly, a lovely Asian friend was confided in me about a recipe collection that was left to her when her father passed away, and how she feels his presence when she cooks his recipes. Humble cooking is a fusion of yourself and your love for those around you. Stir-friers come from all woks of life… thats what makes home-cooked food so exciting and inspiring. (By the way, food and puns are two of my favourite things so bear with me.)
Undeniably, there is an element of love that is infused into a homely meal, and I guess I hope that feelings of warmth and fullness in people’s bellies translate into feelings of comfort in their hearts. Because devouring a heartwarming supper truly is heartwarming. On some level, I find it so difficult to communicate to my family the extent of my love and gratitude towards them. And I know a humble stir fry will never encapsulate it all. But it’s a start.
And yes, I decided to cook the other day :)