The spice of life

I love discovering new recipes. I marvel at the never-ending variations and numerous flavour combinations that take me on a journey into the unknown, a world of discovery ending in a moment of joy, satisfaction and deliciousness.
The clever and careful process of blending, mixing, sieving, beating and folding can introduce new and different flavour combinations.

A recipe is primarily a list of ingredients, an exact measurement of variables that come together in a carefully planned process. Is it just me or does that sound a little like life? Or rather the potential to be able to devise a perfect recipe for life. Can we draw similarities between our personalities and the life choices we make and a recipe? Could the stages of our lives be the ‘method’ and the people we choose to be surrounded by the ‘ingredients’?

Menu planning affords chefs the luxury of choice, a chance to tailor-make our meals for those we are sharing them with. We have the luxury of choosing ingredients that complement each other and dishes that enjoy each other’s company and promote happiness.

If only life was so simple!

Some recipes are complicated: they involve a long list of ingredients, which need to be carefully added with thought and precision. These recipes require the chef to go the extra mile, perhaps sourcing unusual produce at specialised food markets. A pinch of this and a splash of that can result in a plethora of jars and packets sitting afterwards in the store cupboard, used only once yet left waiting patiently to be given another chance to prove their worth in another dish. You could describe this as a high-maintenance relationship.

Sourdough bread involves the careful preparation of a ‘starter’, which needs to be fed daily in order to ferment. The starter doesn’t like to be ignored and requires lots of attention – the word ‘needy’ springs to mind.

A soufflé is unpredictable – you just never know how it’s going to turn out. Just one digit askew on the oven dial or a misjudgement of timings and the chances are you’re set for disappointment. Unpredictable traits in others keep us on our toes, but not always in a good way. I’m sure we can all think of someone we have come across like that in our lives.

A meringue is crisp on the outside with a soft, gooey, sweet and sticky centre – a ‘dark horse’ if ever there was one.

Other dishes are simple and fail-safe: a sausage roll, shepherd’s pie or a hearty casserole, for example. They are popular, easy to make and guaranteed to create no drama. A match made in heaven.

We sometimes encounter hot and fiery temperaments in all different walks of life. Some of us can take the heat, while others need to get out of the kitchen. Spices, just like people, can be exciting and unpredictable – great fun at the time but often leaving you with feelings of regret the next day. Have you ever ordered a curry and thought the vindaloo looked like a good idea at the time but woke up the next day regretting your choice?

Ingredients can be drawn together, blending easily, seamlessly and complementing each other, drawing out their very best qualities or flavours. But they can clash and bring out a negative response.

We are usually attracted to like-minded others, so we surround ourselves with people who make us feel comfortable and secure. They are the equivalent of cheese on toast, fish and chips or a good old traditional Sunday roast.

But it’s not just a cliché that opposites attract. Think of how well chocolate and chilli or strawberries and balsamic vinegar combine.

Perhaps if we were able to pre-plan our lives with the careful precision with which a chef creates a menu it would be possible to make our very own La Dolce Vita!

Pictures: Adobe Stock

Read Emma Young’s monthly Kitchen Confidential column in each issue of The Lady magazine. Don’t miss out - get your digital subscription today and start searching the archive to read the column from the last few months at Exact Editions.