The joy of first experiences – cooking with my girls

 In Havering

As an adult, how often do we truly get to experience something new, for the first time? So many new experiences are simply a variation on the old. As I contemplate this fact I realise that my recently rekindled passion for cooking and creating flavour has largely been down to seeing these experiences through eyes to which they are truly new. Those of my daughters. The rise of a sourdough proving, the roll of pasta through the machine, the wobble of pannacotta, the sometimes pea sometimes coconut aroma of gorse; these have all been new experiences in recent months.

Now more than ever it’s so important to engage children with food, and with cooking. It’s well known that in the past two generations there’s been an increasing disconnect from what we eat, ever reducing numbers of butchers, and greengrocers, even bakeries are as often as not chains. Our children are ‘educated’ on the food chain by supermarkets. This year we’ve been lucky enough to visit Harris Farm Meats many times and had the good fortune of seeing the beautiful Kune Kune pigs all the way from feeding piglets to eating bacon, a very quick lesson on the harsh reality of meat. I hope it’s an understanding that a happy life is the least the animal deserves before the ultimate sacrifice.

Following on from a festival where Paola from Two Mamas Bake introduced the girls to slap and fold, baking bread has become a weekly endeavour. Taking the little pot of starter that Paola donated, refreshing, and watching it grow into loaf upon loaf has been a ritual that didn’t even stop for the holiday. Another highlight was baking a lasagne from scratch; a worthwhile labour of love, an ever ready willingness to pour the wine, brown the meat, and turn the handle adding to enjoyment of everything (even if the tomato based sauce was a step too far for some).

However the biggest revelation came with the advent of MasterChef, suddenly the ingredients which terrified their ears tantalised their eyes and piqued their tastebuds. Saffron, duck, goat, paprika, herring, sorrel, chive flowers, wild garlic, venison chorizo, and smoked halibut, have all been tried as senses were awakened by their new television favourites. I had apparently pushed it a little too far when I came home with sweetbreads. We’ve smoked, braised, and baked. We’ve lit fires and cooked over wood, coal, and stones. We’ve barbecued trout, seasoned steaks, and toasted marshmallows. I’ve introduced them to provenance and flavour, and they’ve opened my eyes through theirs. Cooking has become our go-to activity. The journey I’ve travelled this year with my two favourite people has hopefully given them an understanding that will last them a lifetime, the joy it has given me has only just begun.

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