Bizarre as this may sound, one of my first insights into what would become mind-full gastronomy - how our emotions and our minds influence the way we perceive and interact with food - took place some twenty years ago during a flight between New York and Toronto on a stormy winter night. During that flight I read a fascinating newspaper article. It was about the choices that inmates on death row made for their last meals. I had not yet landed, nor finished reading the article, when I found myself engaged in another trip. This time a voyage into my mind and heart: the careful selection of all those delicious meals that I would delight myself with should I know that I was about to die.
Although I would rather a feast than a simple meal, most of my choices were like the ones made by many of those inmates: food that tastes like home. Not a surprising choice, is it? In every culture and in every corner of the world, the kitchen is the centrepiece of every home. Food - a primal need, feeds us much more than just at stomach level.
There in the kitchen is where love finds one of its utmost expressions.
Cooking is an act of love and food is the bridge that gives us access to
all things good in terms of feelings.
That is where long-lasting memories are marinated and cooked.
Back to the food prepared by my mum. I must confess that I have learned by now, after living away from my family for almost 30 years, that when I start missing and dreaming about certain tastes and particular dishes that she used to cook, I am actually missing the warmth, care and love of my family or someone dear. I am in need of safety, comfort or being soothed by a cuddle. In short: nourishment.
But not all my choices were food cooked by my mum. There were items in my list that I would not only wish to be a part of my last supper; no indeed, there were foods on there that I would be willing to die for! Some were dishes prepared by Ken - a very talented and soulful Korean chef who knew how to connect beautifully and at the deepest level with the eaters of his small and shabby, though quite expensive, restaurant in the old southern district of Amsterdam. And for dessert - ah! I would have at least a few servings of the many heavenly ice-creams made by Senhor João, the owner of the kindest smile and the 'coolest' ice-cream parlour in my hometown.
The food choices that those inmates made said a lot about where they stood in relation to food and life and life and death. A few of them even chose to eat nothing. One had just a single unpitted olive in the hope that he would grow into an olive tree. All their choices were pure reflections of the state of their hearts throughout their lives.