By Laura Vincent
I tweeted a month or so back, with unyielding sincerity, that my new motto was “What would Leslie Knope do, and what would Ron Swanson eat?” If you’ve never seen the TV show Parks and Recreation before, then this won’t make a lot of sense (what I hope makes sense though is my insistence that you find and watch it, I recommend starting with Season 2). But my point is, it’s important to have role models you can look up to and mentally call upon in challenging times, be they living people, or an exceptionally well-written, optimistic and ambitious character like Ms Knope. No offense, real people.
This can work in the kitchen too, you know. When faced with a lack of inspiration, interest, or what some might simply call ‘mojo’ (although… I wouldn’t), a feeling that tends to strike around dinnertime, then think of those who you look up to culinarily.
Even if you don’t have the energy to open one of their cookbooks to see if there’s a recipe matching what’s in your fridge, my message here is: if you think like them, you can get yourself out of a rut. In case this has never occurred to you, I’m going to share some of my own kitchen role models.
Yotam Ottolenghi is a gorgeous man with several London cafes. His meat-free cookbook Plenty is so full of stunning combinations of vegetables that you’ll want to exit immediately to gather up armfuls of previously sneered at chard and silverbeet, and turn them into green fritters and garlicky soup. Pondering what Ottolenghi would do in a vegetable situation has helped me out many a dinnertime. In particular he’s free and easy with herbs, spices and nuts in his recipes, all of which add instant interest to a dish and taste wonderful.
As far as nuts go I recommend almonds, which tend to be more reasonably priced, and also less likely to go rancid in a hurry. Toast and scatter them onto your salad, or add them to roast vegetables with, just say, chopped red chilli, sesame oil, and perhaps some capers and mint leaves – and suddenly you’ve got a meal worth paying attention to.
My long-term idol Nigella Lawson is good at many things, but meals that soothe and comfort are her real calling card. Food that is soft, warm, and can be eaten in bed is sometimes just what the soul and the stomach needs. So when times are tough, think: What would Nigella do? A bowlful of creamy, buttery semolina, perhaps with a can of apricots; a soup made of watered-down tomato pasta sauce with a small handful of rice simmered in it; all the mashed potato there is; an apple crumble for one. All damn fine dinners.
I’ve been reading Ray McVinnie’s ‘Quick Smart’ column in Cuisine magazine since I was but a bairn in short pants, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from him, it’s that you can just throw things together to make a simple, beautiful, pride-inducing meal. It’s all in the framing.
Read a few back issues to get the hang of it, and then look at what’s in your cupboard and advise yourself confidently with something along the lines of: “Has anyone ever turned down a dish of pasta dressed with good olive oil, chili flakes, and salt?” or “Soup for dinner is as easy as simply pureeing well seasoned cooked vegetables, like carrots or pumpkin. Or both together. The French add cream, and so should you.” (Mr McVinnie, if you’re reading this, I write with all respect and admiration, and may your column never cease.)
So, I encourage you to think about who it is behind the cookbooks you admire, and why – which of those qualities can you apply to your own cooking when you need it most? Sometimes though, it really is best to just wonder what the aforementioned Ron Swanson would eat.
People, the answer is twofold; either breakfast food in wedding-buffet quantities, or something wrapped in bacon. He’s a simple man, and yes, entirely fictitious, but someone we can learn from nonetheless. (And really, Parks and Recreation, I can’t recommend it hard enough.)
Laura Vincent is the author of food blog Hungry and Frozen.
source: newshub archive