My Food Philosophy
Our lives revolve around eating generally at least three times a day. Eating and drinking keeps us alive, provides nourishment, keeps us healthy and also gives us an opportunity to share time with family and friends. For those of us who love to cook it also affords us the opportunity to utilize our creativity through the mixing of colors, flavors, textures, and fragrances to prepare memorable meals. In the process of cooking and eating everyone calls upon their sense of smell, touch, taste, sight and sound to appreciate the experience. We can relish this even more when we take advantage of the seasonal foods around us, especially if they are locally grown. There is no aroma like the fresh, ripe fragrance of a late summer O’Henry peach, or a colorful Pineapple Heirloom tomato picked right off the vine. Eating foods when they are in season seems to satiate the appetite and fulfill all of our senses. If we create an environment to complement the meal, our entire eating experience becomes a melding of the food, the table, the music, the company, the love and the fun. The result: generating memories that will live in our minds forever.
I’ve always believed that cooking and eating should be a joyful, sensual experience one that can be experienced by everyone in their own way. As a chef I was most fulfilled when I knew the customers were enjoying their meal. Whether walking the restaurant after the rush and speaking with the customers or getting feedback from the waiters, I gained my pleasure by knowing they were also having a memorable experience. When entertaining at home I seek to provide a comfortable, non-threating environment so everyone is relaxed and having fun. I want to give them every advantage to delight in the meals that have been lovingly prepared for them.
Our senses are a key element to having a pleasurable eating experience. We eat with our eyes first and move on to smell, touch and taste. I am fortunate to have a keen sense of smell, but I also understand how the other senses play a role in our overall experience. I believe this is important for all of us to understand! A plain and simple meal can become absolutely glorious if we pay attention to the details. Take for example a simple roast chicken bought at the grocery store. The grocer cooks them so we are tempted by their smell which can drive one crazy…I have been known to seek out that roast chicken when I’m hungry even if I didn’t put it on my menu. So I bring home the roast chicken, pair it with a salad of colorful mixed greens, red cherry tomatoes, red cabbage, shredded carrots, sliced olives, toasted pine nuts, balsamic vinegar and olive oil then place them both on a lovely white platter. I was first tempted by the smell of the chicken in the store, but now as I present it with the multi-colored and textured salad, it is visually beautiful especially in contrast to the white plate. This is the first step toward enjoying this simple meal. This is followed by sampling the mixture of tasty flavors. Everyone at the table will probably say how delicious it all is but that is partly due to the stimulation of all of their senses.
I remember beginning my cooking classes with elementary school children by having them become aware of how important our senses are utilized when we cook. When they arrived to class there were various closed paper bags on the table. I put a different food item, like a pepper, an onion or a peach in the bags and they had to reach in without looking and identify the item. We went one bag at a time and after everyone touched and smelled the item we talked about what it was. It was actually amazing how many items they knew. We looked at each one and talked about what other colors or types there were in that variety.
Next they had to determine common smells of food and spices like vanilla and cinnamon and talk about what it made them think of. Then I asked what other senses beside smell and touch were used in cooking. Of course they mentioned seeing, but were surprised about the fourth, hearing. For those who had cooked at home it made sense. Cooking can be a noisy process. Water simmers and boils. Fat sizzles and pops when frying. Even vegetables being stir-fried sizzle lightly. A stock pot little bubbles as it is being reduced. Most people are not aware of the potential cacophony of a working kitchen…but it can be a wonderful sound when you know that the outcome will be delicious!
Besides providing an inviting environment and engaging all five of your senses when I cook and entertain, I want to locate the best ingredients available to nourish our bodies. I’ve always felt this way but today I’m taking it to the next level. This new lifestyle has opened my eyes to ingredients that enhance our lives and conversely to those that can cause illness in some or all people. I now choose to include these ingredients that you will learn more about in this blog. You will not find grains in any of the recipes. Dairy usage will be minimal. Sweetness will be in the form of fruit or fruit derivatives, organic maple syrup products, coconut sugar and other unrefined sugars but utilized with a light hand. Coconut products of all kinds have become some of my favorites for several reasons which I will share in my posts. Legumes are a tough one—Paleo diets don’t include them—but for those of us who love Mexican food and have it sometimes, there will be some available. Organic and pasture-raised products will be sought out as much as possible. Wine will be only used in cooking—sad but necessary for my health. Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO’s will not be allowed in my kitchen if I can help it. I am still purging my pantry, but the recipes I will provide here will fall within these designated parameters.
As I sum up the elements of my food philosophy I believe the most important element is setting the stage for your meal. Create an ambiance that will enhance your experience. For everyone that can be a little different. Just think of the many decorating styles and combinations available and the locales that can be utilized in your home and garden. Make it special. Add some flowers, mix and match the dishes and silverware, throw on a table cloth, put out candles, add some music or just listen to the birds sing. As long as you make it yours, that is all that matters.
Next choose a seasonal menu thinking about how it will look and how it will taste together. Invite your friends, acquire the best ingredients locally if possible and treat them properly. Taste and adjust as you go never expecting all recipes will satisfy your personal taste buds. There is always room for flexibility which is why we have so many recipes for the same thing! Put your personal twist on it. Think ahead about presentation so there will be no surprises.
Now your stage is set and your guests arrive. They immediately sense the excitement, the smells of your delicious cooking, embracing the ambiance you created. “Forever Memories” will be made this night! The story of your meal will be retold and your guests will remember the delightful environment you created, the flowers, and the music that set the mood, but most importantly, they will share the details of one incredible meal!
My Mission at Rebecca’s Real Food & More…
- Creating or modifying recipes that nourish your body so you can reach your goal of health and continue to stay healthy
- Providing recipes that stimulate your senses creating a desire to embrace and live a modified Paleo lifestyle
- Seeking out quality ingredients
- Reminding you how to create “Forever Memories” for your family and friends
- Distributing information, research, and resources to supplement this lifestyle
- Demonstrating cooking techniques to expand your culinary abilities
- And sharing my other creative explorations
So here we go…I hope that Rebecca’s Real Food & More becomes a frequent stop on your quest to eat well and be healthy! A Toast to Health and Making “Forever Memories”!