‘Receive pleasure from sensory stimulation such as taste, smell and touch.’ No, it’s not an extract from some erotic novel, it’s a characteristic belonging to those sensual beings born under the earth sign Taurus and I happen to be one of them. We are also said to enjoy, an over indulgence of food and good wine. If you knew me, you would say that I have this trait, as my expanding waistline and rising BMI will confirm.
I read my astrology chart each day, with a certain amount of scepticism. Nevertheless, it does mean a lot to me to cook well, and I do appreciate an eclectic mixture of culinary pleasures. I have my own explanation as to why I feel so passionate about cooking food well. As a kid I was used to food that was cooked in one pot, on a stove, and came under the name of ‘Stovies’.
There were two reasons why my mother cooked in this way; first being, there were always a good supply of the main ingredients, potatoes and onions, in the vegetable rack. Then, by adding in some leftovers, a meal was created. Secondly, it saved on fuel bills.
“What’s the relevance?” Being, taught to cook using one pot as I was, I didn't really develop any real talent for cookery. Therefore, the first time I stepped into the kitchen, instead of scrumptious delights being created, I produced disasters.
My kitchen nightmares include, curries made from canned meatballs, lasagna made with tinned corned beef, oven ready chickens cooked with the bagged giblets still inside. It wasn’t just the main meals that I failed in, I tried baking and wondered why my scones didn’t rise. Only to find out months later, that flour came in different types.
Finally, when my idea of creative sweets was jellied doughnuts, topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries; it was time to ask myself, “What the hell am I doing?” The humiliation I put myself through, putting down these 'great gastronomic debacles' in front of guests, was painful.
But, I took the bull by the horns, and taught myself to cook. I followed recipe after recipe to the finest detail. If I saw something in the supermarket that I didn’t recognise, I bought it and made sure I found out how to cook it.
The result is that many years on, I can safely say I’m an accomplished cook. I do still cook in one pot regularly, because there are fabulous recipes out there. However, I no longer go about the kitchen, like a bull in a china shop. My dinner parties are no longer a place of ridicule. Cooking, like writing, is about hard work and imagination. Importantly for me, cooking food well means I can share wonderful food experiences with those I care for and love.