I know I have said it before, even here, in one of my blogs (or many of them). But I have to say it again. In fact, it needs to be a title. A title is bigger and bolder – it means so much more than whatever is buried in the text or sub-text. A title shouts it out loudly. However, when a meal shouts “I love you” it might be a bit more subtle. But pay attention: food is love and whoever is preparing it for you is loving you.
On Wednesday I will cook for yet another Nomad Chef Secret Dinner. The theme is Italian Fusion. I don’t know yet what that is, but I know that I will be happily improvising on the day. A nomad is nothing if not open to inspiration floating in on a gentle breeze, or a wave that vibrates with flavor. What is more important is that I am going to really love you up with my food. If I can’t tell you directly, you will feel it. I don’t know if there is a God, or even many of them, but I do know that I worship at the alter of food. I go there when I need to feel connected to something positive, something that hugs me tight without judgment. I can spend hours looking at cookbooks and recipes; it is kind of meditation. But there are times when I need to share that love, so I cook. Love is an action. And for me there has to be someone on the receiving end of my love. Now that love is going to the diners at the Nomad Chef. Don’t you need a bit of love this week?
Italian food is Europe’s equivalent to Soul Food in the US (which has its roots in the south of another continent, the US). Southern Europe. Southern US. What they have in common are warm people and a culture that has taken the idea food as love. There is so much comfort shown so openly in these warmer places. The fact that love is food and food is love is universal, but we sometimes need to be reminded of it by the more expressive of us little human beings.
So how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: 1) with careful attention to what makes a great environment for sharing a meal with others, who here at the Nomad Chef, are largely strangers, 2) choosing a theme around which the menu can be improvised, 3) paying attention to the guests and making sure they have been introduced to others who are, like them, fascinating, adventuresome and totally awesome, 4) plying you with wine (or mint/lime non-alcoholic juleps) and lots of little things you can eat with your fingers as you wander around the garden introducing yourself, 5) pacing the courses and serving based on the rhythm of the group, 6) making sure that at least two or three culinary influences are present in every dinner, whether it be Mexican, Japanese or Indo-Moroccan, 7) provoking stimulating conversations among guests whenever there is a lull, by making fun of myself or my wine notes reading skills, 8 ) grinding the spices when needed, making everything fresh on the day and even on the hour, 9) always having a lovely vegetarian option (my specialty since I’ve been one for my entire adult life), 10) being willing to cook the most savory and exciting fish, poultry and meat dishes with love even though I don’t eat them, 11) serving at least one, and often two puddings that are just so rich and decadent that you leave filling like a king or queen, and 12) letting you stay on until whenever you want to go home (no, I don’t let people sleep here, but short of that, they are welcome until the wee hours of the morning).
Who wouldn’t want this love? I certainly do! And I get it when I give it. That is the best part of being the Nomad Chef – food is all about love.