Saturday, August 26, 2006

Eating Well

I have been reading French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. Not quite sure what genre this book would fit. Cookbook, chicken soup for something, diet book, memoir or something in between. The blurb describes it as Proustian and that I have to say is a stretch. The blatant francophilia is as excessive as it is cloying but on the plus side no extreme dieting measures are advocated.

At any rate it reads easy, the recipes are for the most part quite undaunting and it has succeeded in putting thoughts of food on my mind. The how-to for ├ęclade de moules in the NYT article reminds me of a Bengali Hilsa recipe that calls for mustard paste, green chilies, turmeric, banana leaves and embers of coal. The result is soft, smoky, spicy and utterly delightful when served with steaming Govinda Bhog rice.

One key message in Guilino's book is about savoring and enjoying every morsel of a meal. To serve food in small portions, artistically arranged - something that comes to my mother naturally and I have learnt from her example -
so the mind is satisfied along with the palate. I may never be able to exalt cooking and serving a meal to the religious experience that she makes of it, even my practice of the art by rote leaves much to be desired.

Depending on how rushed I am, I will cut corners for myself and try to do right by J to assuage my guilt. So while she has her meal laid out just like my mother taught me, I may be eating my whole dinner out of a cereal bowl between juggling a few chores. Sometimes J will say "Mommy you did not have dinner tonight. When will you eat ?" When I tell her I already did, she looks genuinely puzzled and says "But I did not see you eating". She is so right, that would not be the kind of eating that Guiliano would endorse and neither would my mother.

The zen of cooking, serving and eating is a lost cause in our over-committed lives surrounded by tempting cut-shorts, half-measures and conveniences. It takes a conscious effort to slow down and do right by oneself - to enjoy every moment from selecting fresh ingredients for a simple yet wholesome recipe, preparing it with love and attention to detail and finally savoring it well to honor the time and effort that went into creating it. Reading this book got me thinking about how much I have neglected myself.


SFGary said...

You should join the slow food movement, the EUros seem to love it; at least the Italians and the French.

Heartcrossings said...

SFG - I am a big fan of slow cooking myself and frequent cooking as well. Try to have something different for dinner most days of the week.

SFGary said...

I'm more of the old Star Trek show mode where they had that instant food machine. My life would be made if that technology materialized. While I get by my visiting sister looked at various scientific experiments in progress in my fridge and had a fit.

Heartcrossings said...

SFG - When I first started working and living alone, I cooked what my friends called "designer food". No one including myself knew what had gone into it but it tasted "interesting". Keep those experiments going - you may be on your way to becoming the next Thomas Keller :)