Whether we realize it or not, the way we eat food is very telling of how we live our lives.
Because eating is a very primal instinct, our attitudes to food can imply very much about how we embrace life. It doesn’t matter if you cook or if you don’t. This very carnal, food-involved relationship that each one of us has is an open window into who we are and the characters we have.
Let me tell you a secret. When I’m eating with other people, especially those I don’t know very well, I observe the way they eat.
If we’re at a restaurant, with a long menu to choose from, I’m curious to see if they end up picking the same old boring dish, or decide to go for the weirdest sounding one. I gauge if they’re adventure-seekers who take the road less traveled or conventional beings who always choose the safest route.
Do they take their time and ponder over what will be their next meal, that which will nourish them for the rest of the day, or are they quick to decide and slam the menu shut before anyone else has chosen what to eat? It helps me realize if they are pragmatic or dreamy or thoughtful.
I watch them from the corner of my eye, wondering how they would prefer to eat their meat.
Medium rare and slathered with plenty of chimichurri, or well-done with nothing but a quick sprinkle of fine salt? Or would they prefer steak tartare, raw red meat that so many would cringe at the sight of?
How about chocolate? Would they rather have chili hot chocolate, like my Czech friends Wivienne and Michal who are on a one-year road trip in America, or default to the double chocolate brownies? Maybe they don’t even want dessert, because they prefer savory to sweet, or simply because of diet constraints?
During any meal, I look at the others at the table and watch how they eat, as discreetly as I possibly can.
Some chomp their way through their food methodically, like soldiers on a drill, eating so hurriedly and quick that it could have been an entire plate of plain white rice or Julia Child’s beef bourguignon but it wouldn’t have made any difference. Perhaps they just want to get eating out of the way, and maybe they find eating (as with so many things which bring pleasure) a waste of time, I think, trying to decipher the look of disdain on their faces.
There are others who eat fast too, but with a hunger and furor, just like my Uncle Eric, as if he was afraid life would pass him by too quickly, and that he has to eat as much good food as he can, for as long as he lives. I’m curious as to why they feel the need to rush through the list of Michelin-star restaurants, or bowl after bowl of Japenese ramen, but I really don’t know.
How about variety in the foods people eat?
There are those who wouldn’t mind eating defrosted chicken nuggets for every single meal; and then those who even when eating alone, will prefer to buy a piece of fresh fish, cook it in a stew with flavors like ginger and soy sauce, and savor every little bite.
It seems that that former’s lack of variety in food choice (when it has nothing to do with economic constraints), is often an extension of their lack of variety in activities in general. On the other hand, the latter often proves to know how to appreciate the smaller things in life; the little moments of quiet, or the deep purple in the morning glory creeping on the wall.
To be honest, I very much prefer the company of the latter, in life in general, but especially during meal times.
I feel most at ease when I’m at a table with others who take an interest in their food – people who take their time to chew slowly, allowing all the tastes to come through.
I love seeing them break into a smile and close their eyes as they eat those pomegranate scones slathered with whipped cream, or take a deep breath and inhale the fragrance of the spices which make up the chicken curry. I enjoy watching their eyes glitter at a beautifully-presented dish, whose bright combination of colors brings a genuine pleasure and allows them to first eat with their eyes.
It’s this multiplication of happiness that makes me love sharing a meal with others who experience the same pleasure of food.
There’s a rush of joy to be partaking in the same meal with someone else who also enjoys their food, and for whom each meal should be an adventure, not a chore. I feel a sudden burst of exhilaration when I have the honor to eat with them, and this translates into giving the meal a far greater pleasure than if I were to eat alone.
I guess it’s obvious enough that I enjoy eating – and to an equal or greater extent, cooking.
Because of that, I’m constantly experimenting with new recipes and testing uncommon ingredients. Some days, I buy a fruit I’ve never eaten before, just for fun, and then end up with pomegranate cinnamon vanilla chia pudding; other days I make zucchini noodles; and some other days I bake quinoa banana bread.
Today, I’m working with hazelnuts.
Have you ever tried a hazelnut whole?
The first time I ate it at the natural foods store two blocks from my house, my eyes opened wide with pleasure. It was as if I had just eaten a Ferrero Rocher chocolate sweet but the taste was multiplied by ten.
It was beautiful and perfect, as in my friend Ally’s words.
There wasn’t any room for doubt or hesitation, and within minutes, I’d paid and left the shop with a quarter-kilo of hazelnuts in my bag.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with all those hazelnuts – the lady at the store had told me I could eat them whole for breakfast, but I wanted to use them in another way.
That night, it dawned on me that I could grind these lovely hazelnuts and make hazelnut meal, and use it in place of almond flour in a cookie recipe I’d been yearning to try.
You could say that those hazelnuts didn’t last long, because before I knew it, I had these hazelnut chocolate-chip cookies baking in the oven; their aromatic perfume filling up and swirling around my tiny apartment.
There’s a depth to the flavor of these cookies – which are, in my opinion, the best cookies I’ve made in a long while.
Crunchy and interlaced with tiny chocolate chips, just like a super Ferrero Rocher in cookie form, these are cookies that I can’t stop thinking about.
They’re so, so good. Try them, won’t you? Pretty please?
GRAIN-FREE HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(Makes 2 dozen large cookies)
Adapted from: Paleo Spirit
1) 2 cups of hazelnut meal
2) 4 tablespoons tapioca flour (or arrowroot powder)
3) 1 teaspoon baking powder
4) 1/2 teaspoon of salt
5) 1/4 cup of butter (or ghee, coconut oil or palm shortening)
6) 1/2 cup of brown sugar (or ¼ cup honey)
7) 1 large egg (or two small eggs), room temperature
8) 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
9) 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (gluten, dairy, soy free)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 deg cel)
2) Sift hazelnut meal, tapioca flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
3) In a large bowl, cream shortening and palm sugar together. Add the egg and vanilla extract and continue mixing.
4) Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until well combined.
5) Stir in the chocolate chips.
6) Use a small cookie scoop or large spoon to scoop out balls of cookie dough – each cookie approximately 2 tablespoons.
7) Place on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet and leave approximately 2 fingers’ spacing between each (this is necessary as the batter may spread quite a bit).
8) Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies are cooked through.
9) Allow to for at least 10 minutes cool before removing from tray and serving.
P.S. If you’re wondering why I’m trying to eliminate wheat from my life, I strongly recommend Wheat Belly – a book that will empower you and make you determined to get rid of wheat and it’s terrible health effects!