I used to have a housemate, every day he would ask what was for dinner. Once told what the dish would be,he would always ask the question “with love?” And I could always answer with 100% certainty that in fact there was a metric butt-ton of love in every meal served.
We prepare three square meals a day, and an endless amount of in between snacks. Our whole world seems to revolve around food. From caring for the animals to the tending to of seeds to the pruning and picking of fruit to the preservation of that food for the coming months. It only seems natural that the preparation of a meal is an art form.
Here is the secret to a great meal, cook with love.
I love the animals that live in our barn, I love those seeds that are tenderly ticked into the dirt, I very much enjoy pruning the trees in late winter thinking of how much joy those fruit will bring in the warmer months. I enjoy every step of the damn process that is making a great meal.
So first step to cooking with love, it’s making sure that the food you’re eating was produced with love. I can guaranfuckintee you locally sourced hamburger is going to blow your mind in comparison to the pink slime crap that you’re buying from the grocery store. That being said if you don’t have access to a farm and all the delightful labor that provides, then strive to eat local and/or organic.
I understand that not everybody lives on a farm. But the acquisition of foods it’s just as important as how they are grown, and where they are grown. We pick up our holiday roasts from local farms. I shop at three different grocers specifically getting their superior items. I have a pseudo-fishmonger, and my husband is very smitten with his butcher shop. We spent time making sure that the things that we don’t produce are produced by somebody else with love. Even living in large cities, I have procured foods with the same intention. Frequenting farmers markets, co-ops, and large grocery store chains.￼
The second step to cooking with love is planning. You can of course haphazardly throw a meal together in 30 minutes. I have done it oodles of times. But beginning to think at the start of your day (or even the day before) what you’re going to plan for dinner, taking the necessary items out of the freezer, acquiring any other necessary ingredients, and giving yourself a recommended two hours to cook a meal makes a big difference. Then all the little steps can be tended to along the way. By tending to little steps I mean the wrangling and containment of little people you have a legal responsibility to keep safe.
Step three, as mentioned before the secret ingredient here is love love. Which means that you’re having to feel some love when cooking the food. I know for a fact my food taste better when I’m singing and talking to people then when I’m yelling at my kids and the phone is ringing off the hook. If possible take care of all you can ahead of time so that you have space to greet the bumps in the road with grace and poise. I would also add that I think that playing a good album can make a big difference while cooking.
The fourth step is ambience. If you do all this and then eat off a TV tray staring off into a screen you have missed the point. This requires sitting at a table, inside or outside, or a blanket or whatever, connections is the point here. Even if your alone creating a beautiful space to think clearly in makes a big difference in my opinion. Place out water pictures and any accouterments that might enhance your pallet experience. It means having a conversation with the people around you, an opportunity to check in about each other‘s days. All of this enhances a dish made with love.
The fifth and final step is cleaning up. Leaving a space fresh and beautiful, with the opportunity for new beginnings in the next meal. Each person helping to clear the table, wash the dishes, sweep the floors, there’s no job too big or too small, nor no person too big or too small to help with these tasks. It’s a way for everyone to pay homage to a meal well cooked when they help close the loop and clean up after a meal. ￼￼
Thankfully our dear old housemate still comes over every week for dinner. Every week, tried and true, he always asks that same question, ”with love?” and with a smile I always say yes. I am so thankful to him for teaching me to cook with love.