Last week, with an evening cocktail in my hand, I sat back and watched my husband cook dinner, which, for those of you who know him will not be surprised to hear, included dancing, singing, and an overall sense of magic as he slowly built flavor upon flavor into his gumbo. With each new addition to the pot an intense and altogether new flavor would spice the air and we would all inhale deeply to try and catch the essence. Crisping chicken skin and browning sausage left Ladybird a pile of drool in the kitchen, while the addition of onion, bell pepper, and celery (the Cajun holy trinity) suffused the air with bright vegetable tones, slightly reminiscent of Chinese food. Worcestershire sauce added an appropriate and otherworldly tang and as I sniffed the air from my counter perch I read the ingredients list only to discover it contained a vast array of delicious that I love. Things like vinegar, anchovies, garlic, and molasses so whoever decided to keep all of those treasures in one bottle is my hero. Aaron’s favorite addition, however, comes at the end; fresh parsley evokes a wonderfully green, cool flavor that is able to cut through the intensely rich stew and offers a necessary balance to the dish.
A few hours later, over steaming bowls of decadent gumbo, we waxed poetic about food and its cultural origins. Cajun cooking has its holy trinity, French cooking has its mirepoix of onion, celery, and carrot, Italians use the same base but call it soffritto (which translated means, to stir-fry, or sauté to gently tease out a huge wealth of flavor), and a vast number of Thai dishes begin with garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. Individually these ingredients offer a very specific taste but together they pack a delicious punch. By taking your time and doing right by these ingredients it’s possible to achieve layer upon layer of sumptuous flavor. Even quick dishes that aren’t as labor intensive as something like gumbo, can be rich with depth of flavor so long as you care about the ingredients that you use.
I love watching Aaron cook. I love remembering to love the process as much as the product; something that is not always easy when you spend most of your time in a kitchen. I often forget just how magical cooking is and how large a place it has in our wellbeing as humans. It’s incredibly easy for me to forget what a gift food is and I often do. I get caught up in the annoyance of having to cook or I hate the thought of even looking at food after a particularly long day of making food and I end up cooking a meal that probably tastes fine, but that I didn’t enjoy making. Most likely that’s still going to happen because I do work in a kitchen for a living, but if I can remind myself to think about the process, constantly smell the delicious smells wafting around the kitchen, and start wearing a ‘kiss the cook’ apron I’m bound to have way more fun at the end of the day. Because when you stop to think about it food is wonderful.
So, as the holidays approach and you all start planning your menus, don’t forget that food is magic and a little shoulder dancing in the kitchen goes a long way. Love the process as much as the product and eat your hearts out.