I made dinner for a friend of mine recently. I’d been dying to cook for him for ages as he’s a massive foodie like me. Now I take cooking for someone for the first time very seriously, and as I was hoping to impress him I wanted to make what I like to think of as my signature dish. The dish itself is pretty straightforward and not at all fancy, but what sets it apart is a ‘secret’ ingredient and of course, I wouldn’t tell him what it was. After several attempts to get it out of me I jokingly told him that it was ‘Loooove’ (and added several heart emoji’s for good measure). Luckily for me he gets me, and my weird sense of humour. I thought about it afterwards and whilst that wasn’t strictly what the ‘secret’ ingredient was in this particular dish, without realising, there was an element of truth in what I said.
There’s a quote that I love:
‘If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with them. The people who give you their food give you their heart.’ – Cesar Chavez.
And it’s so true. I love having my friends and family over for dinner. They don’t really understand why every time we get together I always volunteer to cook, but they never complain. The thing is, nothing makes me quite as happy as having my living room filled with laughter and having the people that I love all squished round my tiny dining table. I love that mad scramble when you put first put the dishes down and then it all goes quiet except for the sound of cutlery on china. And the content silence afterwards, when everyone’s eaten so much they can’t move. “But are you sure you’ve had enough to eat?” I ask for the hundredth time as once again I’ve cooked enough to feed a small army...
I take great pride in my cooking. I’m by no means a great chef but every time I put a plate down in front of someone there is that element of, “Here, I made this for you and I made it with love.” For me, that’s what cooking has always been about. It’s a homemade cake for your kids on their birthday, or a candlelit dinner, or a batch of brownies for your best mate because some guy broke her heart. That’s why one of my favourite things is when someone cooks for me, be it beans on toast or a fancy dinner, because cooking is an act of love.
He got it out of me in the end, though only after I swore him to secrecy. Although I think maybe I was right the first time, maybe that really is what the secret ingredient is after all.