Who is your food inspiration?
Back in 2012 I had a little time on my hands and decided to collate a bunch of recipes that I enjoyed, my family had created or enjoyed and put them together in a book. This is what first led me to thinking about who or what was my food inspiration.
I mean, we only have to head to Instagram or Facebook to be inundated with images and influencers that guide our eating habits in that moment. I wanted to think back further though. I knew that it was the people and experiences around me growing up that had the most impact on how I look at and treat food now and have developed my desire to learn and try new foods.
Some of my first memories are watching and helping my Grandad in his vegetable garden. I can remember the smell of the onions hanging in the entrance to the garage, the rows upon rows of potatoes, cauliflower, runner beans, sprouts, carrots, beetroot (I could go on).
Without fail, every Sunday was a roast dinner at my Grandads house, and rest assured this was really farm to table stuff. All the veggies would have come from the garden that morning and prepared (sometimes a little too much!) but lovingly so and served up that day.
To this day (although my pallet is changing but nostalgia rules right?) I don't tend to eat pickled beetroot as this was how I was used to it being prepared and eaten. Dug up, cleaned, cooked, peeled and eaten, nothing more. So I think its fair to say that I was quite privileged in being exposed to so many wonderful foods from birth really. I can imagine I was weaned on a lot of those gorgeous vegetables, my pallet was being trained from such a young age.
My Grandma also cooked. She ran pubs and catered for a golf club and functions as time went on. I first learnt to roll cutlery with her! We (my brother and I) spent a lot of our school holidays with our grandparents and as part of that we got to learn a little about what it was like to work and the effort that literally went into making a pie.
We used to go down the lane to the lake by my Grandmas and pick blackberries. As any of you will know, this is a short season so as soon as they were around we were there. Crumbles, pies, tarts and jams were for the making and filling the freezer. Not only was my Grandma providing comfort through her food but educating us in a way that we would be able to share in years to come. They also lived by the sea on the north Norfolk coast so dressed crab was a must.
I try and try to get my children to eat more fish and seafood. I really hope one day they take the plunge and try for themselves because (drooling) fresh dressed crab and some brown bread and butter is just glorious! We couldn't wait to go down to the village to the grocers with Grandma, pick up her veg orders, then there was the butchers for the meat and then the lady round the corner (I never knew her name) would open the half hatch door on her house and sell us however many dressed crabs we wanted that day from her kitchen. We would take everything back to be prepared that day and couldn't wait for lunch time to roll around.
As the teenage years hit, it would be my step father that influenced me most in that he had lived abroad and liked to try new things and experiment himself (much to mums annoyance sometimes ha ha!). Watching his kinda no rules method and throwing stuff together and pretty much hoping for the best brought about some good food with fabulous flavours. This style of cooking works for me. As much as I love a good recipe, I find that when it comes to preparing meals these days Im all about seeing whats in the fridge or cupboard, throwing it together and seeing what the end result is.
It allows a sense of freedom and creativity with what you cook and eat. We should always be nourishing ourselves with food that brings us joy right?
So for me, these people have been big influencers in my life in terms of food choices and cooking styles. They gave me a plethora of opportunities to try lots of different food in what they cooked and prepared and places they took me to try food. I spent a lot of my past studying and working in the hospitality industry in varying establishments such as a burger joint to a Michelin star restaurant. All which taught me that you try everything, you find what you love and you can then (if you want to) make it your own.
I love trying lots of different foods and styles of cooking these days. Some of my favourite cooks/chefs are Sabrina Ghayour, James Martin, Ottolenghi and the Queen - Nigella Lawson. All of whom exude their passion for great produce, comfort and connection, feeding the masses and bringing people together over food.
Who is your food inspiration?