I could smell the butter melting over the mushrooms. What a delectable scent. The joy of preparing a meal with one’s hands goes hand in hand with the anticipation that takes hold when one is actually going to sit down and consume it.
Like any act of creativity, it begins with a desire that one is seeking to manifest.
For me, these cravings never take hold during the day when all the world is working and all the food in the world is ready for me to purchase at the click of a button. These cravings come to me in the wee hours of the night when I am daydreaming of all the food that I want to eat, but will most likely have to wait till the morning before I can prepare it.
There are certain scents, certain flavours and certain half-cooked symphonies that are conjured up in my mind whenever I fantasise about food. Before I learned to cook, I could only ever dream of consuming it. But once I started cooking, oh dear me, I could see and smell all the various stages that all the ingredients would have to go through before I arrived at the flavour that was perfect for me.
It is part science and part art.
There are certain ingredients that one develops a strong bond with for they go into every meal. Say, for instance, onion and garlic. These root vegetables are so universal that I have yet to go to a country where they are not used in cooking. Onion is high on the sulphur, so not only will your breath stink after; your sweat glands will, too. Onions are known to be good for the heart so if you ever have a cold, you know what you need to do.
Many years ago, I had a dinner guest and he told me that in his country there is a belief that raw onions that are grown on a land possess the antibodies and immunities of that land. It was a custom among those in his community to consume a raw onion immediately whenever they arrived in a new country if they wanted to remain in good health.
We all know the adage–an apple a day keeps the doctor away–but I had never heard it substituted for onions.
Now, coming back to those lovely mushrooms slow-cooking on the stove with onion, garlic and butter. Oh dear lord, what an aroma. It is exactly the kind of scent that gets everyone out of their bedroom and into the kitchen to see what is cooking on the stove.
Mushrooms are wonderful, aren’t they? Some of them are poisonous, you know. Well, not the ones that you get in the shops, but those that grow in the wild–some of them could kill you.
Now, if you want to take those mushrooms to the next level, it needs a bit of cream and wine. Seems like a classic recipe, doesn’t it? Except sometimes there isn’t cream or even wine in the house. What do you do, then? All good cooking is born of experimentation and substitution.
If you don’t ‘have’ something, you use something else. In the case of the mushrooms, I mixed milk and cheese and used that instead. Oh, it was lovely. Really lovely. The mixture in front of me transformed before my very eyes atop that fire stove I was cooking over.
That’s what a stove does. It transforms the ingredients of the earth into magical flavours when they’re tossed into a pot at the right time and in the right way.
In the end, it was creamy mushroom risotto I ended up making. It was lovely. It was exactly the stuff of my late night reveries.
An onion a day keeps the cold monster away.