Here & there: How to serve up the best recipes; food and love

In this 2016 photo, a chef makes crepes at La Droguerie in Paris. He really loves what he does, he said. Paris, France, July 2016 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

OPINION — We often play “guess the ingredients” around our dinner table. Each boy takes a turn saying what he tastes in the food. Unless, of course, he was my sous chef that night. Then he already knows – and makes leading suggestions to his brothers.

Garlic? Salt? Cumin? We continue until every ingredient is named.

Eventually, they learned that no matter the dish – Indian or Mexican, burgers or fish – there is one common ingredient: Love.

Or so I say.

Because I believe it. And I want them to believe it too.

Let’s face it: Home-cooked meals take time. You’ve got to think about the menu. You’ve got to shop for the ingredients. You’ve got to prep the food (those onions aren’t going to dice and sauté themselves). Not to mention setting the table and doing the dishes.

And then there are the soccer practices, music lessons, work, book reports, and play dates. It’s no surprise that fast food and drive-thrus thrive.

So, yes, when I make time to cook at home – with all that goes into that – you better believe I say there is love in every single bite. But if my word isn’t enough, just ask Michelin-star chef and Frenchman Eric Ripert.

In a recent interview with Marco Werman of Public Radio International, Chef Ripert talks about how his mother used love in her cooking to bridge the tense relationship he had with his stepfather.

During that time in his childhood, following the break-up of his parents and his mother’s remarriage, Ripert’s mother cooked three meals a day for his family. Every meal was carefully prepared and served at the table – a new tablecloth, china pattern and flowers set for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“I think my mother was giving back some love to her son, which was me, through the cooking that she was doing. She was trying to bring the family together,” he said.

The idea of love as an ingredient in cooking circled back into his life when Chef Ripert became curious about studying “temple food” and traveled to Buddhist monasteries and hermitages in South Korea.

He went to learn about fermentation and how to preserve vegetables, but he came away with an understanding he’d already inferred from childhood: Food has a spirituality to it.

And the emotions put into the food process – from farm to kitchen – affect that spirituality.

Ripert saw love and compassion in those Buddhist monasteries. He felt it. He tasted it.

“You feel something, something (when you eat food prepared with love). There’s a sensation, and I think a lot of people have the same experience – that can make the difference in between something that has been cooked by someone who loves to cook and loves to put good energy in that food to make you happy …. It explains why you can feel the love in the food.”

Ripert first felt that love as a child around his family table. And when my family plays “guess the ingredients” around our table, I am trying to underscore the love I put into every meal in hopes my kids feel it too. And that they remember it.

I also hope that the learning around our table will help them recognize the love put into other culinary experiences, like Chef Ripert so clearly does.

I hope they feel it in the crepes they eat from the generous crêpiers at La Droguerie in Paris; I hope they feel it in the noodle soup made by the weathered hands of the Lao woman at the hole in the wall in Luang Prabang; and I hope they feel it at that great taco truck on 8th South and State Street in Salt Lake City.

Because if food isn’t made with love – and you can’t taste it – who really has time for that?

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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