THE LAST WORD... ‘ It’s a language you don’t need to speak, together ’ but sharing food brings you
WITH AINSLEY HARRIOTT, THE CHEF AND STAR OF CROSSWORD
“MY interest in cooking came from my wonderful mum. When I was a kid in the late ’50s, my mum loved to entertain. And with my dad being in showbiz [Harriott’s father, Chester, was a pianist], there was a little bit of money around.
I’d go to my friends’ houses and at dinner time their parents would say, ‘Time to go home, young man. It’s time to eat’. It was a very family thing then. You come to my house and my mum would say, ‘Sit down, eat, enjoy’. So that’s where it really started [for me]. I’d see her cut up stuff and marinate meat overnight and make lovely slow-cooked, aromatic food.
That really gave us all the love of food. I say ‘us’ because my brother is the main cook in his house and my sister is a great cook and taught cooking at school. All of us grew up with this great love for food and we were not afraid of the kitchen.
All my children can cook a meal. My oldest boy, Jimmy, is getting to the stage where he doesn’t take his girlfriends out, he cooks for them. If your boy invites you around and cooks you a meal, you’re more likely to give him a kiss.
I’ve passed [my love of cooking] on to the kids, I’ve passed it on to mates. I’m forever getting texts from friends of mine saying, ‘I’m just about to cook something, what can I do with this?’
[Cooking TV shows] mean we’re not so frightened of having a go. Food is a lot more approachable, we feel more relaxed about it. It inspires you a bit.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – food is universal. It’s a language you don’t need to speak, but sharing food brings you together. You smile and the thumbs come up. It creates a lovely warm feeling.
There’s no better feeling if I’m cooking something and someone says, ‘Oh that’s really nice’. People forget what you said, people forget what you did, but they’ll never forget the way you make them feel – and that’s the real key.
It’s the whole experience of cooking, shopping, eating, the satisfaction – it’s happy, it’s joyful and that’s what food should be. Sometimes we get a little bit too anxious about food. Just say, ‘Hey, I’ve had a go, enjoy’. It’s not about pretty food on a plate; it’s about sharing, bringing people together, having good conversations, seeing people’s saliva. Don’t get your knickers in a twist, it’s a meal.” AINSLEY HARRIOTT’S STREET FOOD THURSDAY, 8.30PM, SBS