Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cooking philosophy

I've spent the last 25 years or so living as a vegetarian and while my mum and the rest of my closest family were very understanding and cooked meals we could all eat together I found most other people weren't prepared to do that. 

The reasons I chose to be a veggie are mine alone and belong in a separate post, what I want to talk about here is the dreaded 'special' dish.   Whenever I ate at someone else's house I had 'the special dish', something different to everyone else and frankly I didn't like it much. Generally the other guests looked at you, looked and the dish and thank god that the cook knew how to cook their meal. And it wasn't just the 'experimental cooking' that upset me. Imagine you went to a toga party and everyone is wearing togas but they make you wear a new ghost costume. It's still basically just a white sheet, but you are the one people watch and clearly feel sorry for except perhaps when the ghost costume is really glam with cool glow effects then everyone is 'ooOOoo, I almost wish I was a ghost too'.  OK so there is nothing cool about being 'normal', if we were all 'normal' life would be boring. Thank goodness we aren't but I don't always want to stand out, especially if standing out means another bland vegetarian lasagna or a ratatouille with lumps of over-salted and undercooked aubergine.

I feel that if you are all eating the same meal together then you should ALL be eating the same meal. So as a cook I cook to the lowest common denominator (no I don't cook by fractions) that is to say I take everyone's dietary needs into account and come up with ONE DISH that suits us all. It's inclusive, we all share the same experience. Plus it comes with the handy advantage that I don't have to come up with 2 menus and we all get to eat at the same time. Group meals, especially family meals are important bonding sessions, kids that eat their meals with parents and other adults in their family are learning and not just academically though it turns out that they score higher in their exams than those that eat alone or in front of the TV. Turns out family meals way out perform homework as an indicator of academic success. Also they are less likely to be over weight as adults. It's all important.

In my family inclusive cooking can be a pretty complicated affair, I'm veggie with an allergy to nuts and palm oil/fruit, my darling husband (DH) is gluten and wheat intolerant and my two kids are just intolerant of anything new/spicy/packed with veg. I'm kidding, they eat plenty that most kids wouldn't but they are not 'food motivated' (thank goodness) and that makes in my experience, for a picky eater. Plus the children have at least one friend who we often cook for who can't eat eggs and another little pal who (due to a medical condition) is on a reducing diet. Add to that my insistence that every meal must be flavoursome and not bland (a reaction against too many insipid vegetarian lasagnas) and nutritious and wow, that's one heck of a challenge!

So here is my promise to you, every recipe I stick on here is going to be 
  1. Veggie
  2. Nut free 
  3. Wheat free
  4. suitable for small children
  5. as nutritious as I can make it
  6. as flexible for other allergies as I can make it.
Oh and it has to be delicious. OK?

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