My thoughts overwhelm me as I stand in the kitchen, my hands on the marble worktop, surrounded by aromas whose quirky rhythms fill the room. This is a place where things become themselves again, only in a version that’s different somehow, and more abundant, with a new allure.
I think of what Jill Scott (*1)said, about someone who had told her that you could just as easily cook with as little butter as possible and with ludicrously few spices. She told me that she’d replied that she couldn’t live like that. I understand that. It’s important to live a healthy lifestyle, as long as it doesn’t inhibit your enjoyment, although I’d always choose fresh over ready-made. But I like to make space for a hint of cheekine ss and intuition, ideally of the highest quality. Cooking is a scientific experiment and any concessions you make get in the way and needlessly cut down your options. I see the kitchen, this kitchen, as a laboratory for chemical processes, and perhaps a touch of magic, where I can move freely, sometimes very consciously, but more often than not unthinkingly. Live it, grind it, taste it.
Is it something to do with the word ‘kitchen’? The word sometimes sounds like a cliché for quick snacks, effort saved and stomachs functionally filled. But not here, please not here! My cooking deserves a temple for immeasurable aromas, for the music of chopping and sizzling, for the rituals. I gift my kitchen materials that are solid, dedicated, essential. Knives cut better when they’re sharp - chop-chop-chop - the gleam of metal, the warmth of wood. I don’t drink wine from a mess tin. Live it, grind it, taste it. I also want the ingredients to be at their most delicate, carefully selected, unprocessed, pure, and that’s how I want to treat them too. The grinding of the mill - crunch, crunch - I imagine I can hear the oil leeching out of the spices. When I scatter them over my food like soft rain, I notice that their temperament sets the rest on fire, with the sizzling seeming to intensify as a result. I want my spices dried but intact and freshly ground, I want to taste their flavours to the full, every segment of their riches, for they’re as old as the world itself. Live it, grind it, taste it: my mantra.
The chaos that reigns here has its own order, enforced by the things that surround me and that I have meticulously chosen. They sing a paean to the beauty of sobriety, can you imagine it, can you hear it? These are my attributes, my instruments, their sleek shapes and earthy materials speaking a primal language, pure, timeless, without frills. Like this totem, more than just a pepper mill. I cherish them as I do life itself. I cook in order to share, enjoy sensing my guests’ tension as they wait, their curiosity. And all this so that without dawdling, but also without undue haste, I can serve up unexpected treasures, with this mill as my leitmotif. Live it, grind it, taste it, again and again.