dream come true

My love of food is tied directly and intrinsically to my Dad. While my Mom always prepared us lunch when we were younger (and it was always delicious!), it was my Dad who would cook up a storm on weekends, trying new flavors and dishes that I had never even heard of. Many of my favorite memories involve standing together in the kitchen with my Dad, both in our aprons, ladle in hand, and just feeling supremely happy. Whenever he would let me chop parsley with our big meat cleaver, I went at it with a delighted fervor that could only be rivaled by how fast I would shovel down the food after it had been prepared.

Preparing food relaxes me. You have to pay attention to the ingredients, to not chopping off your fingers, to the correct measurements and timing, and I find calmness in the structure and rhythm of it all. I will happily bustle around the kitchen for three hours, because I know at the end of it, I will have a finished, tangible result that, about 97% of the time, is insanely delicious.

Over time, my relationship with food has become more complicated, but my love for cooking remains. I've developed quite the repertoire, and while I am not the fastest slicer in the world, I would argue that I can combine flavors like nobody's business. Now, I'm the one who cooks dinner every night, while my Dad still takes over on weekends whenever we are together.

Somewhere along the way, Jamie Oliver entered the picture, and it was love at first sight. It's not uncommon, in fact, to overhear me say to my Dad "Well, Jamie says that you have to do it this way!", driving him a little crazy. When I saw Jamie Oliver on "Naked Chef" for the first time, his love and enthusiasm for flavorful, exciting, yet simple food completely won me over, and I have been a fan ever since.

Last week, I was in London for a few days, visiting a friend and doing a little bit of city-culture-sightseeing. On my last day, I went to have lunch at Jamie Oliver's first restaurant in Hackney, Fifteen. Now, I am fully aware that he doesn't work there; I know that it is just a name, and just a place, and in the end, just food.

But that meal? It was a dream come true. I had such unrealistically high expectations, and when I tasted the first spoonful of cauliflower soup, they were all blown out of the water. For the entire meal, I could not stop grinning like an idiot. Those three courses are some of the very best food I've ever eaten, and I savored every single bite. At the end of the meal, two of the apprentice chefs thanked me for coming, saying they have never seen anyone savor their food as much as I did. I simply thanked them in return, because I have never enjoyed eating food so much.

Working and commuting every day took a lot of the fun out of food preparation for me, and turned it into a chore over these last months. At Jamie's Fifteen, with three beautiful, tantalizingly delicious dishes, I rediscovered that passion and love for food that I had been missing. For the last few days, I've been cooking up a storm, just going with what feels good, and I can honestly say that I haven't been this happy in quite a while. I'm sure there's a whole lot of life lessons in that, but what it really comes down to is this: do more of what makes you happy. And don't let everyday stress make you lose sight of what that is.

From top to bottom:

Cauliflower soup with garlic croutons and chilli oil
Malted spelt with violet artichoke, kale and goat's curd
Lemon-camomile sorbet with mint granite