Food & drink

A culi­nary jour­ney

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - FOOD & DRINK - By Su­mayya Us­mani


HE past month and a half has passed by like a flash, a flurry of weekly travel, stacks of recipe and ar­ti­cle writ­ing in­ter­spersed with ac­tu­ally try­ing to run a home and cul­ti­vat­ing a new busi­ness idea. I have re­alised I take on too much, hap­pily and with­out ques­tion.

Much of this has to do with play­ing catch-up with a pro­fes­sion that is ever-chang­ing, and partly be­cause when you be­gin your sec­ond ca­reer late in life, for pas­sion rather than ne­ces­sity, your de­sire to ex­cel plummets you into a 24-hour, all-con­sum­ing work sched­ule.

How­ever, there must be some­thing that keeps you grounded. For some it is a home, fam­ily or a pet – for me it is al­ways my daugh­ter. Be­ing a sin­gle par­ent has its ob­vi­ous chal­lenges but the one pos­i­tive side of it is that I have some­one who de­pends on me en­tirely, and as a re­sult, she is the bench­mark of keep­ing it real.

Mak­ing mem­o­ries that make her smile when she grows up, is my main fo­cus – for me it was al­ways linked with flavour.

When I look back at my own child­hood, I re­mem­ber slow, lazy days and ev­er­last­ing mem­o­ries of din­ner be­ing pre­pared just as break­fast had ended. My mother ran the home like pre­ci­sion clock­work. She would go to the mar­ket, al­ways buy pro­duce that was fresh, lo­cal, sea­sonal and from a road­side green­gro­cer. I took this for granted, and never ap­pre­ci­ated what a great bless­ing it was to eat this way.

My mother cooked dishes from all our trav­els, and as a child my palate was ex­posed to a range of tastes, tex­tures and flavours. She made com­plex dishes and sim­ple ones but what al­ways stood out for me were the ones she cre­ated by guess­ing in­gre­di­ents in dishes she had eaten some­where. One great trait I’ve in­her­ited from my mother, is that I use my sense of smell and taste to de­ci­pher many a com­plex dish. Some­times my mother would just gauge an in­gre­di­ent by flavour and might sub­sti­tute one that tasted sim­i­lar – and it al­ways worked. It is in­ter­est­ing to see how this sen­sory eval­u­a­tion has car­ried over to my daugh­ter. I see her pick­ing up foods, smelling, touch­ing and tast­ing and then telling me ex­actly what they re­sem­ble and usu­ally get­ting it right.

A few months ago we went out with friends to a restau­rant – and to ev­ery­one’s sur­prise, she nar­rated a com­plete list of herbs in the steak sauce. I know now that I must be do­ing some­thing right, as her mem­o­ries are happy ones, in­ter­linked closely to how I cook at home.

Re­turn­ing to those mem­o­ries we make when we are chil­dren, it is al­ways those that in­ter­twine flavour and nur­tur­ing, that have a last­ing im­pact, whether it is of a treat we had as a child or sim­ple home­cook­ing kind that comes from the heart and is made with love.

Tak­ing the time to cook for those we cher­ish is the great­est joy, and one we are slowly los­ing. As I sit in Bal­ly­maloe House in East Cork, where I am host­ing a sup­per club tonight, I am hum­bled by the fact that this a haven is built on those same sen­ti­ments that I grew up with – sim­ple, lo­cal, sea­sonal and whole­some home-cook­ing and hospi­tal­ity.

In a time of hec­tic lives and per­pet­ual com­mit­ments, it is im­por­tant to make mem­o­ries based on real food that’s in sea­son. Those aren’t just buzz words – they are a real way of eat­ing and keep­ing the con­nec­tion sim­ple. I re­mind my­self of this, as I look ahead to an­other month of rush­ing, and de­cide that I will take the time to breathe and cre­ate ev­er­last­ing mem­o­ries based on flavour, for those I love. Su­mayya Us­mani co-presents BBC Ra­dio Scot­land’s Kitchen Cafe. Her books, Sum­mers Un­der The Ta­marind Tree and Moun­tain Ber­ries And Desert Spice are out now, pub­lished by Frances Lin­coln Visit sumayyaus­ Twit­ter @SumayyaUs­mani

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