THE RIGHT FOOD AT THE RIGHT TIME
Three years ago, I sat at my kitchen table with a cup of tea and a book. The book was The Kitchen Diaries by British food writer and journalist Nigel Slater. I turned page after page, the steam from my cup curling in wispy tendrils towards the ceiling. I was enthralled. The book’s quiet beauty, the solitude and intimacy of the prose, and the understated deliciousness of the recipes enchanted me. Most of all, I was moved and inspired by the philosophy that was being lived out through the thick matte pages that detailed, month by month, a year of Slater’s life in the kitchen and garden. The recipes and ingredients change in tenor throughout the year, melding harmoniously with the seasons. Heavier stews and soups in winter that wrap you in comfort like a warm, worn woolen shawl meld gradually into sharp, cool flavours in summer, enhanced by a wafting breeze, when Slater makes a point to eat every meal outside.
“The right food at the right time.” The words nestled into a vital part of my brain. I weighed them in my hands, rolled them around my mouth. They felt right.
This simple sentence now governs my eating philosophy, providing the foundation for what, where, how and why I eat. The right food at the right time as a concept has undoubtedly been undermined by the way we live now. As a society we have become profoundly disconnected from our food, not even needing to consider its provenance or seasonal availability. There has been a resurgence of simple food and seasonal eating over recent years, a kind of ‘back to basics’ revolution. After all, eating is among the most basic, fundamental and intimate acts. If we’ve become distanced from our food, we’ve become distanced from a crucial part of our humanity.
A suggestion to begin to close the gap. Contemplate this deceptively simple sentence: The right food at the right time.
Here’s mine. Fish and chips on the beach, salt on your lips and sand between your feet. Sweet watermelon salad, sharp with feta and red onion, eaten outside in the sunshine. Champagne for every occasion, happy or somber. Sweet, sticky mangoes from a roadside stall in Queensland, the stifling heat attaching itself to your skin and assaulting everybody in the car as soon as somebody opens the door. Roasted root vegetables and red wine by an open fire, or less romantically, an electric heater, when rain is lashing the windows. Respecting the seasons and respecting yourself. Mindfulness. Provenance.
Right food. Right time.