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"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." - Luciano Pavarotti, 'My Story'
Having a lovely meal isn't all about eating what is on the plate. It is often about the sensations and memories we attach to it. Perhaps it's sitting at the kitchen table on a cold winter's day with a warming bowl of homemade soup and fresh crusty bread or barbequing juicy lamb chops with friends on a Summer's evening in the garden, having been cooped up all day at work. Maybe it's the Sunday roast that you picked at greedily as it came spitting out of the oven.
There is something hugely satisfying about having cooked a great meal for your family or friends. Some of the best discussions and most fun we have had in our house have been round the table following good food and perhaps a little fine wine!
As we know, there are many benefits to home cooking: it is cheaper and it is healthier. We can control the amount of fat, sugar and salt that we put into our food. In addition we can monitor the portion size. In essence, you know what you are eating. Studies have shown that the more time a nation spends on food preparation at home, the lower its rate of obesity.
Home cooking introduces our children to good eating practices. It is also educational and will improve their knowledge of nutrition. If they show the slightest interest in food - get them involved! It will inevitably mean more mess but it is so worthwhile. It helps them to develop life-long skills which they will hopefully pass to their own children.
Cooking is fun! Whilst certain flavours and textures belong together, there is always scope to be a little creative. Some recipes take little time to prepare and others may take a few hours of slow cooking. The important thing is that the end result tastes good.
Many of us use recipes and cooking methods that have been passed down through our families. Perhaps it's the best roast beef, fruit chutney or chicken broth when you are under the weather. It may be shepherd's pie with a secret ingredient or macaroni cheese with golden crispy topping.
For me, home cooking is about using good basic ingredients and preparing them with care and attention. This can be as simple as a hot fluffy baked potato with melted cheese or your favourite curry prepared with authentic aromatic spices to achieve that real depth of flavour.
It seems obvious but cook with the time you have available. If you have put in long hours at work, feel stressed and more than a little tired then settle for something simple like pasta and tomato sauce. If you are entertaining family or friends, they want to spend time with you. They do not want to see you reduced to a greasy wreck because you have spent all day in the kitchen preparing or that you become the "empty seat" at the table attending to the food after their arrival.
In the 1800's, the Scottish writer James Boswell said "no beast is a cook", he called Homo-sapiens "the cooking animal".
It would be such a pity to become nostalgic for the sensations and memories of home cooked food. Cooking does matter, it should be part of daily life. The route to a diet of fresh unprocessed, healthy food is in your own kitchen.