There’s flavour in those hands

 In Havering

Six months ago I wrote for the What It Feels Like… website about confidence. It proved to be quite a cathartic experience of self-discovery….


‘Tumharay haat mein zaika hai’
‘Excuse me?’
‘It translates from Urdu as your hands have flavour’.
‘Thank you’.

I have flavour in my hands? Should this constitute the end of my culinary journey or merely signal the beginning? These hands of mine have flavour? Really? Was this really a revelation to me? Well yes, it was.

Confidence is such a strange concept; strong and indefatigable in some while in others as fragile as the puff pastry on a Ne’erday steak pie. I fall into the latter category. I love to cook, to feed people. I love to create flavour. Not recreate it. My flavour, thoughts and inspiration from a visit to the market, deli or fishmongers. Then that little word ‘confidence’ rears its head again. What if it’s burnt, raw, cold, tough, overcooked, undercooked? What if you never cooked and ordered takeaway instead or went to a restaurant.

That wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be the point of my adoration for food, to be cooked for by others when I long to cook. It would go against the inbuilt desire to feed, to comfort and to deliver flavour. If I was going to do that I’d be as well saying ‘you’ll have eaten then’. Confidence not drawn from within feeds ravenously from others, is it validation of my opinion, worth and flavour or simply the meal which I have lovingly prepared that I look for? These words seemed to circumvent all of that and turn the confidence of another into confidence in myself. Do my hands really have flavour, was this true? Is this true?

Flavour. The indefinable quality of food. You cannot see it on social media, despite the proliferation of pictures; do those pretty plates always present flavour? It doesn’t necessarily look always look attractive or sound appetising. It just is; mouthwatering, smile inducing, even spine tingling, that moment when the olfactory senses each line up in an orbit of happiness. The creation of which gives a feeling of contentment or of joy, wonderment, reminiscence or even rage when reflecting on failed attempts at more opportune moments. It’s the one aspect of a meal which should never be missing, without it food is merely nutrition, with it the simplest of meals achieve greatness. Even the saying is indefinable, to have flavour in your hands. Meaning that no recipe, no matter how closely followed will ever taste the same cooked by two different people, where the ‘flavour’ is added is a mystery.

Those words rang in my ears, they continue to ring in my ears, albeit the English translation as I’m useless at picking up languages. There’s that confidence again. ‘Your hands have flavour’. I have always had a belief in what I cooked, ingredients always made sense, have always seemed to find their natural bedfellows in my mind as I gazed at them, conjuring up combinations. However the feeling of knowing flavour is within you, and that the hands somehow take on a life of their own in delivering it has turned a fragile confidence into a belief; a feeling that the self simply needed to understand what it unconsciously knew. Naturally the confidence doubts now move to the technique, but that can surely be taught? Flavour is something different.

First published in What it Feels Like… December 2014

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