Tailored Thoughts On: Food
Huntsman cutter and resident tailoring columnist Matthew Gonzalez turns his attentions to the value of cooking at home
I’m currently on a pre-birth-of-child trip to New York with my wife. It’s a city that I haven’t visited in many years and out of respect for the fact that she isn’t drinking, we have made this trip all about eating. Experiencing the culinary culture of the city and eating out for every meal has allowed me to meditate on how food influences our lives; reflect on what it means to eat well and most importantly reconsider the value of cooking at home.
There’s something special about cooking. It involves all the senses. The colours, flavours, textures and aromas of fresh produce, the sound of chopping, sautéing or roasting creates an engaging experience that connects you back to the natural world. There is also something very therapeutic about cooking; sitting down and peeling a bag of potatoes or mincing a bunch of onions. These repetitive actions are calming and require focus on the task at hand which can also provide a short respite from your otherwise day-to-day worries.
If you have ever seen an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix then you will likely understand what I mean. Each featured chef doesn’t show us how to cook but rather explains why cooking is their passion, a passion that is contagious. They speak about cooking in a way that makes it sound serene, even though they are cooking in some of the world’s busiest kitchens.
This probably explains why after each episode, I have an almost immediate compulsion to go into the kitchen and cook. The show has a unique ability to inspire and excite us about the process of cooking. It also asks us to stop viewing cooking as merely a skill, elevating it instead to an artisanal craft. And if cooking is a craft, then home made food is arguably its pinnacle form.
If you ever hear a chef talk about food, more often than not they will pinpoint the source of their passion to their experiences of eating as a child. Whether it was their parents, grandparents, siblings or just access to the kitchen, there is usually a moment. I know this in part from experience.
One of my older brothers is an extremely talented chef in Los Angeles who often finds himself cooking for the Hollywood elite. Growing up, I still vividly remember watching him try to recreate a recipe from a film or invent something new. It was a passion of his that I learned to incorporate into my own life and in doing so, fulfil that natural desire to create.
From childhood we are given Lego or wooden blocks to stack up and build whatever we can imagine. As we become adults, many of us lose the opportunity to be creative and make things from scratch, thus denying ourselves a chance to fulfil that basic aspect of what makes us human. Cooking can fulfil that primitive human instinct.
Last night my wife and I went to a famous New York restaurant called Keen’s Steakhouse for dinner. The food was incredible, the portion sizes were obscene and we left feeling several stone heavier than when we arrived. While we both had a great time, I realised that when I go out to eat, the food is just one component of the experience. Even though the meal was just a few hours ago, my lasting impression of the restaurant was visual. The restaurant interior had a rich character and looked like it hadn’t changed since it opened.
Upon reflection I can’t recall a single restaurant where I walked in and was hit by the amazing aromas of food. That is a stark contrast to a home cooked meal. Think about going to a friend’s house when they are making a Sunday roast or walking through the front door of a home as Christmas dinner is being prepared. You are instantly enveloped by the aroma of food. It is a completely different sensorial experience. At home, food is the main event.
Cooking food is a craft that can fulfil our deep rooted human desire to create while nourishing our bodies. Unfortunately, it is a luxury for many of us. The amount of time it takes to cook at home from scratch can make it impossible to do seven days a week. Our schedules are inundated with work, commuting, chores and errands. Cooking three meals a day seven days a week might never be a reality but a nice homemade Sunday roast at home is a step in the right direction.
Words by Matthew Gonzalez
Image Credits by Jase Ess