Eat your instinct
Recently I was chatting with a friend about my last recipe, and she asked why I never add in images of the food as I prepare it for my readers to have access to the step-by-step. This got me thinking: what seems so naturally irrelevant to me - how to cut the vegetables (they will taste the same cut round or square); to others may be off-putting from trying something new all together because of the 'am I doing it right' first obstacle. I wanted to take a moment to explore the merit of intuitive cooking and how to trust your inner wisdom - guided by an instilled creativity that we all possess. If food and philosophy are inextricably related, food and intuition even more so.
I seldom cook by recipe and so many of my best creations are accidental - for me playing with food is about finding access to something intrinsic to me. There are lessons, traits, intuitions and knowledge we acquired long before we came into this world. Wisdom of our ancestors and genetic imprints shape us more than we can fathom. Long before we had food blogs and cookbooks, food processors and microwaves, we had ourselves and we had fire. We made do with what we had through ingenuity, survival and connection. And now when we stand in front of our fridge, disconnected and uninspired: we have one zucchini, half a pepper, some old mushrooms, a red onion, perhaps some brown rice and a can of tomatoes in the cupboard. This is the best time to get instinctual: with a bit of smoked paprika - a makeshift paella; with rosemary - ragout, and with soy sauce a stir-fry. You may have an idea of the kind of cook you strive to be, or you know you’re really good at one thing and so you stick to it, but I implore you to keep experimenting with what you have, even when that's scarcely anything. You don't need heaps of produce to produce a magical meal. Creativity just needs practice. Stick with reality and don’t get bedazzled with prospects of eternal youth by following a macro diet or signing your life over to a girl who accredits all of her rosy vitality to homemade chia-date-balls. It just is not sustainable and after a long week at work I doubt you feel like getting elbow-deep in oats and date paste to knead energy bars for slow-release. And if you do, then good for you - but please do not force it. You can get everything your body needs by following your gut and figuring out your own instinctive balance. If that week you feel drawn to a particular vegetable or ingredient on your shopping run, take it home. Though you may be unsure of how best to prepare it; if your eye is drawn to it, trust your built-in health guru to substantiate the value in it. Even when your bag is filled with chocolate craving, your body is sending you a message - so listen, do some research and learn to be kind and forgiving to yourself and body.
My big rule about food is that it doesn't come with rules and isn't prescriptive. I have bitten my teeth out on all the grains - quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth - trying to convince myself and others of not eating certain things (read sugar), on conforming to the idea that I need to eat according to a specific plan. The epiphany: I am not a conformist ... and my teeth miraculously grew back. I can't and don't want to tell anyone how they should be looking after themselves, because that would be going against my own principle to follow my intuition: in life, in love and in food - and well-being will inevitably follow (though the more cynical among us may disagree). Personally I feel tribally akin to a Mediterranean style of eating; for me this evokes memories I can not logically place having been raised in the Namibian desert. It may confirm my suspicion that I was an Italian Mamma in a previous life. I definitely wasn’t french, or else I would be a whole lot more pedantic about my meal preparation. Whatever your food tribe, dare to explore and get creative.
I don't want to supply my recipes with images of how to cut a certain vegetable because I know you know how to do it. Your ancestors have been doing it for thousands of years, and there is little you could do to mess it up, or escape your predestined path to becoming a haphazardly intuitive cook - like me.