Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Food

Not to love food is like not to love life. Having good food is like having a good life, it doesn't have to be complicated or cost a fortune but it certainly requires some efforts. 
I love to cook. Done right, cooking is exciting. I mean the whole 9 yards with planning, buying the right fresh ingredients, using creativity, adding cultural elements, experimenting, work on the presentation. I believe cooking style and relationship to food says a lot about one's personality. It has a lot to do with upbringing, habits, ability to grow and develop, creativity, care, discipline. In fact the easiest way to get to know someone, is steering the subject to the harmless subject of food. "How did you enjoy the...", or "What is your favorite restaurant?", or "What type of food do you like to cook?". Food is a great small talk subject, and pleasant to think of, as well as insightful. 
I like to cook every day and I do so with great pleasure. As busy as life can be, there are always 30 min to fix a nice meal for everyone. Coming back from a holiday, I can't wait to get back to my kitchen and make, culturally inspired  by the place I've seen, meal. I like to make all kinds of foods, frequently European classics, but my specialty are exotic, ethnic foods with a spicy touch. Finding ingredients for those in Moscow can prove quite a challenge. As a rule, Russians don't like spicy foods. Indian food in Moscow, unless you ask otherwise, can be as mild as baby food from a jar. So every time I go back to the Netherlands I stock up on things like green curry, lemongrass, and sambal. In fact not being able to find good and affordable ethnic food restaurants has made me really creative with cooking Lao, Thai and Indonesian and lately South American and Mexican. 
I have taken quite a few cooking classes too. I try to bring variety and this week the menu looked like like this: Monday, French, Tuesday, Hungarian, Wednesday, Thai, Thursday, Mexican, Friday, Italian Saturday, Chinese, Sunday, Japanese. For guests, especially a big group, I like to make 3-4 course culturally synergized dinner which takes some reading and planning and usually takes couple of trips to specialty stores. And I am loving every minute of it. The only thing I find a bit challenging in a home kitchen is to prepare all elements of the food ready in the same time so that it's served equally warm without using the microwave. But that comes with practice. And even if not perfect, food can taste heavenly, consumed with people you care about. 
Cooking is fun but sometimes is also nice to eat out, right. Talking about restaurants, it's a huge subject that I can spend many hours delightfully pondering over, but let's not test your patience here:) Few places I'd like to mention by country The Netherlands: Blauw (Indonesian) and Goeie Louisa  (French), USA, Portland: El Gaucho (Steak house), Andina (Peruvian), Cha (Mexican), Indonesia, Bali, Ku De Ta (Indonesian), Norway, Bergen area, Cornelious (Norwegian-European), France, Paris Mon vieil ami (French), Russia, Moscow Bon Tempi (Italian), Hacha Pouri (Georgian), Strelka (International), Latvia, Riga, Rozengrals (Latvian), Bulgaria, Sofia, Check Point Charlie (Bulgarian, International), Greece, Santorini, Zafora (Greek) etc. (list will keep on being updated). 
Food is also about having a balanced diet that suits you best. Nutrition seems to me one of this subjects that's going to gain more and more popularity with widening the food-related issues such as obesity. I read many books on the matter and from all the bunch few stick out as making me eat and relate to food differently: Food Inc, Fats Food Nation, Skinny Bitch, and 4-hour bodyI drew from those practical conclusions like the fact that food ethics can be applied on daily basis by buying organic and farmer market produce. But good luck for trying to do so in Moscow. I have shopped at the market and that was quite an ordeal. It's true it's better, healthier and tastier but it takes good 6 hours to go to all the individual stores, wait at a queue and sometimes not knowing what exactly you are buying. Besides that there is always "Azbuka Vkusa" stores, the closest you can get to Whole Foods and Natuurwinkel, but their impact on the environment is questionable as seemingly everything yo buy there is shipped from Asia or South America. Not to mention that a full shopping cart breaks the bank, as half a kilo of strawberries is at least 10$. I now mostly shop in one of the big French chain stores Auchan and was happy to learn that corporate sustainability policies has been drastically improved. 
Another thing I learned about food is to avoid as much as possible processed food. Not that I was ever a big fan, but I am far more disciplined now. Making everything from scratch is so much more rewarding, tastes better and means so much less waste. Besides you don't pollute your body with food stabilizers, paint, preservers, sugar, salt and what not. 
I am on a low carb, high protein diet, 80% gluten and dairy free and that really works for me. I tried the no-meat, but it's just not the right thing for me. I believe is smaller portions of fresh strong food 4 times a day. Breakfast usually omelet around 8 or 9, early lunch around 12, a warm meal and late lunch around 4 pm, salad or so, dinner at 8 as above. I lost weight and I have more energy when I ditched most of the carbs. I understand all diets and food regiments though. Bottom line is we are all different and so is our relationship to food. The most important is to enjoy it and stay healthy. 
Black sea muscles, best consumed with a good company, on a hot summer night overlooking the ocean, accompanied with white wine