Somewhere amongst making Afternoon Tea, bread making, baking croissants and making cheese earlier this year I started to realise that I really like food. No really – making food, reading about food, talking about food and yes, of course, eating it too. I started to day dream about taking a patisserie course, a cheese making course or an artisan baking course and starting a new career involving food. But like many dreams they get caught up in practicalities, fear and muddled motivations and they get parked up in an overflowing basket on my desk marked too hard to deal with now. But the thoughts just didn’t go away and I wondered whether consuming an excess of food writing and photography was fueling a flame.
A couple of weeks ago there was a fascinating article by a blogger that summed up perfectly what I had already started to feel from an overindulgence in food blogs (there were over 100 in my food blog feed). Soon after reading this I went on a food blog diet for a couple of weeks and didn’t read any to see what difference it would make. Instead I found myself still reading about food – A Year of Food Life and A Year in the Village of Eternity if you’re interested. And then one day what struck me was that what really interests me about food is how good food is the fuel to a good life and the best food is that which you make and grow yourself. Also that my favourite food writers are people who write in depth about food – Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, Nigel Slater, Ottolenghi, Eliza Acton, Alice Walters, Diana Henry. I am loving reading my way though the excellent Penguin Great Food Series.
At the same time as all this indulgent thinking about food I decided to look for a volunteer position in a local community organisation and I’m now volunteering for an organisation that I think does really excellent work. My first assignment is working with a young family who need help with menu planning, budget shopping and household routines. Aside from making me realise how rich my own life is I am totally humbled by the determination of the young woman to put healthy food at the centre of her family and to do it on a minuscule budget and little time to invest in cooking and housekeeping. Things that I take for granted in life are a daily battle for this family but I’m confident that with the right support, tools and information they’ll soon have things turned around.
I don’t think that I shall be recommending macarons to this family – well not yet at least. But I baked these basil and lime beauties a month or so ago when I was day dreaming about opening my own nature inspired patisserie. The only problem with them is that I had to eat them all myself since his lordship doesn’t like meringues. Instead I rustled up a batch of blueberry and bran muffins for him instead. It struck me as I was setting up the photograph of these two baking adventures how they represent two ends of the baking scale – the rustic and the elegant. I enjoyed making both of them equally although did sweat to find a simple recipe for the Macarons and plumped for Dan Lepard’s methodology also shared by Ottolenghi who take credit for the wonderful flavours. I also watched this video several times although ended up spooning my macarons as I got stage fright at the last minute!
For all the fun I had making macarons and muffins the work with Supergrans has made me see food from a totally new perspective. One based on survival rather than indulgence. It’s a new and exciting adventure seeing food from a completely different perspective. Going back to basics has been a lesson in what’s really important in life and forcing me to think more about how I can use my culinary skills and knowledge to really help others and not just to entertain myself.