So what do we really want to eat? Few of us have the luxury of eating absolutely anything we want to. There are constraints of money, health, availability, and the question of who else we are cooking for. Then i suppose we have to consider our own capabilities. There is a cultural question. I was brought up to eat meat only at lunch, and that is even after finishing the meal. A meal wasnt considered a meal unless there was meat on the plate. It took quite a while for me to realise that meals i was eating were far from what i actually wanted to eat or how i wanted to eat it. meals were prepared that way out of habit, without a second’s thought to the fact that there was an alternative. the idea that sometimes a plate of stew and some bread would have sufficed would not have been entertained.
As a family, we ate at the table and always with our hands or with just spoons, we never for once ever used fork and knife. we never for instance, ate out of bowls, like the Chinese eat most of their meals and the Italians eat their pasta. I didnt hold chopsticks till I was in my late twenties. This social conformity stood against everything I felt about food; that eating should be a relaxed affair, eaten in whatever way feels right. The idea of eating at anything other than set times of the day would have been a taboo to my parents. My current habit of eating late at night would have been unthinkable to them.
The rules have been broken. most of us now eat more or less what and when we want to. Meals are less rigid, eaten semi-formally at a table, casually from a dish, or in front of television, and i suspect there are few people who would think twice about tucking into something from another culture, be it a bowl of Chinese hot and sour soup or a vegetable dosa. To say that we are more adventurous in what we eat is a hugeone week most of us will get through from solitary indomie noodles for one to curry for six, a takeaway pizza to a roadside lunch, and from a big bowl of gari soaked in water to a family sunday lunch.
Sometimes we can eat just what we feel like, other times we have to think about what the rest of the household may want. they may be family, flatmates. taking into account what we fancy and what we we know of everyone else’s likes and dislikes can turn cooking a meal into a juggling act, and we cannot realistically hope to get it completely right every time. But I would rather have a bit of hit and miss any day than mindless predictability and missed opportunities.
What we end up eating for supper often has as much to do with our mood as with our tastebuds. How many times have I come home in the sort of grumpy, fractious mood that can only be soothed by a bowl of gari with very cold water? Whose mood hasnt pushed them into making an out-of-character meal, like throwing together some high-energy snack such as groundnut and bread? who hasn’t sought solace in a plate of pepper soup? often these choices are a question of texture and temperature as much as taste. our body may crave hot, creamy, starchy food because it knows it has a soothing effect, or something green, crisp and fresh because it needs something light and cleansing.
what we choose to eat is not always about the flavours we have in our head (i feel like something garlicky tonight) but is more often than not, led by our mood and our need tosatisfy physical or psychological urge. in case you think i have completely lost plot, I should explain that I am simply suggesting that our temperament, our mood, our state of mind are just as likely to help us decide what we want to eat as anything else. and if our super is to be truly satisfying, then we need to listen to what it is our mood craves. otherwise our meal will not quite do the trick………….