Have you ever had a meal so luscious you’ve begged the cook for the recipe, only to be sorely disappointed when you’ve tried to recreate the meal at home? Perhaps you remembered the bread being lighter and more moist, the beef more tender and the chicken more flavorful?
Ever wondered if there was a missing ingredient?
I’ll let you in on a secret. In my 20 years of cooking and baking, writing and researching recipes and teaching cooking classes I’ve discovered that there is, without doubt, one addition that’s never listed in the ingredients, yet is crucial to every meal’s success: LOVE.
You read it right. Love. You can’t throw a list of ingredients together, chuck it in the oven and expect it to be perfect without some love in its creation.
Think back to your most pleasurable and enjoyable meals — what stands out? My bet is there was some love and laughter in the mix. While I cannot offer you science, take my word: a bit of tenderness in the cooking process makes all the difference.
Not convinced? Try it. Here’s how to ensure every dish you prepare is served with love:
- Passionately devote your time in the kitchen to cooking and only cooking. Sometimes you’ve just got to get dinner on the table before a meltdown happens — I get it — but a quick meal need not mean a slap-dash effort. Remain present when cooking for your loved ones, consciously adding a dose of care into every additional ingredient.
- Focus intently on the task at hand by eliminating distractions. Step away from your email and put your phone down. The perfect cake has been destroyed by many an errant email — let your eye stray just a moment and you’re bound to burn the edges.
- Taste your dish often to ensure you’ve arrived at the right flavor and texture combos. Your care and attention to how your meal tastes can take a dish from good to great. A recipe can only take you 3/4 of the way. Your palette will take your dish to the finish line as a winner.
- Make it look good. The simplest meal can turn into a magnificent masterpiece if you make it look good on a plate. Adorn and decorate your plate elegantly to woo your diners into a love affair with your food and not just a meal. I have this book on my shelf and pick it up on occasion for plating inspiration.
- Believe in yourself. Listen to me: you have the power within you to create the perfect meal. Follow your heart and add a little bit of this or that to make the dish your own. I almost never follow a recipe completely. Your kitchen is your laboratory and only you can make a dish your own. In the words of Julia Child:
Cooking is like love: It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.