Food & drink
A culinary journey
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 sumayyausmani.com Twitter @SumayyaUsmani