Food as fulfilment, not just fuel

We all enjoy food, don’t we? If you were asked that question, you’d probably say without even thinking, ‘Yes, of course I do.’ Appreciating good food is one of life’s great pleasures. A delicious lunch out with friends, a homely family supper, a celebration meal, one perfectly ripe peach savoured on a summer’s day: they all give us enormous satisfaction – but how many of those experiences are occasional one-offs rather than the norm?

If you are cooking on a regular basis for yourself or others, it can be quite a pressure to be responsible for producing something tasty and nutritious every day, day after day. So it is only natural to fall back on the tried and tested, on those easy-to-make dishes that you know everyone likes and that can be rustled up in quickly in between everything else you have to do. And when time is really tight, reaching for something pre-prepared can often seem the only viable option.

Ideas for new dishes are everywhere, from seasonal recipes in magazines to TV cookery shows.

However, if we think of food as being more than simply fuelling us to function and get through the day, if we consider it as being a source of enjoyment, as well as nourishment, then perhaps we can break free from routine… and finding a good blend of food types that are such an essential part of a really healthy diet may be a lot easier than you think.

Why not re-invigorate your taste buds as well as your feeling about food and cooking by exploring the rich world of food that is so easy to access?

Ideas for new dishes are everywhere, from seasonal recipes in magazines to TV cookery shows, which can often be a source of inspiration as you watch a dish being created. It’s also a good idea to flick through the cookery books on your kitchen shelves and give yourself a fun challenge. Every week find one new dish that you’ve never tried out before and cook it for supper at the weekend, sharing it with family and friends to gauge their reactions and engage them in the whole process of discovery.

Or you can turn the process on its head: select some of the ingredients you have in your kitchen and enter their names into an online search engine; you’ll find plenty of sites suggesting recipes using the ingredients.

Perhaps choose a particular world cuisine that you have always enjoyed when you’ve been out at a restaurant and see if you can learn how to cook one of the classic dishes. A great help is that most ingredients are now relatively easy to find. There is an extraordinary variety of fresh as well as packaged foods compared to even a decade ago, as well as dedicated websites offering the most rarefied of products.

As well as exploring new dishes and foods, some experts suggest it is a good idea to keep a food record for a couple of weeks: make a note of everything you eat and cook – though you have to be honest! – and quite quickly you will start to see patterns emerging and areas where you could easily make a difference with small adjustments to the overall healthiness of what you eat. At breakfast maybe swap full-fat milk for semi-skimmed, or choose a low-fat yoghurt. If you’re nipping out for lunch from work, most sandwich shops will have wholegrain bread sandwiches, with mayo-free options.

As with any improvement in your diet, this new approach to what you are eating has the possibility of being a pleasurable addition to your general sense of wellbeing.

Bon appétit! Guten Appetit! Enjoy.