Good Food is the Best Gift

by Inga Yandell

Food is more than energy it is an expression of love, a vessel of memories, an important part of culture, tradition, and a way to connect to the land—its flavours and fragility. So, as others rush through the stores in search of the perfect gift, consider slowing down to make the best gift of all—good food!

Good food starts with great ingredients…

The simplest way to elevate any dish is with an ingredient of local origin, this adds to the freshness but also the story on your plate.

Stories make a meal into a memory…

Instead of a menu, make a discovery diary with pictures of the land and people behind the produce. I got this idea watching an episode of Destination Flavour: China (S.1 Ep.3), where Australian chef, Adam Liaw explores the food philosophy of Dai Jianjun, owner of the world famous DragonWellManor, (or Longjing Manor), an exquisite fine-dining restaurant nestled in a private garden in Hangzhou. Dai keeps a daily diary with pictures of the produce he cooks with and the people who grow it—his “farm friends”—which he treats as family. The importance of nurturing relationships with his suppliers stems from the philosophy that food is more than ingredients, it is a connection to the land, to culture and community.

A discovery diary is a keepsake your guests can treasure, and if you fill it with recipes from your feast, it becomes a living memory they can recreate, re-experience, reinterpret and share with their loved ones.

No Menu adds novelty…

In his earlier series, Destination Flavour: Scandinavia, Adam visited the Swedish city of Malmö and the kitchen of Titti Qvarnström, the first Swedish female chef awarded a Michelin Star for Bloom in the Park. There he found that the secret to her menu, is not having one! Titti likes to surprise her guests, allowing them to experience food as a delicious discovery. Placing emphasis on the experience of trying something new, unearthing unexpected combinations that we wouldn’t normally consider.

Let your guests make their own delicious discovery. Use this concept to introduce different foods, heirloom varieties, or better still, serve a plant-based version of a festive favourite.

Do a Heston for the Holidays…

Heston Blumenthal is known for his clever food deceptions, artfully reimagining how food looks, tastes, feels, sounds and smells. Why not apply this approach to inspire a fresh perspective on plant foods? To get you started here are some suggestions.

Ahimi: turn your tomato into tuna like chef James Cromwell.

This Cheese is Nuts: make aged-almond cheddar or cashew camembert like Julie Piatt.

Smokey Christmas Menu: stuff a breast of celeriac and give poultry the bird like Lisette Kreischer.

Plants offer unexpected benefits…

In her book OMD (One Meal a Day for the Planet), Suzy Amis-Cameron shares her families favourite foods—all of them plant-based. The book sheds light on the amazing impact of eating just one plant meal a day, a small change that dramatically reduces your carbon footprint on nature (OMD estimates that eating one plant-based meal a day saves 736,895 litres of water and 350 kilograms of carbon emissions). Suzy calls these “benefit effects” as opposed to the health and environment side-effects of consuming increasingly larger quantities of animal products.

Make Christmas a celebration of community…

Even if your motives aren’t environmental (though everyone is effected by climate change) or health oriented (according to a study by Harvard researchers, swapping just 3% of processed red meat for plant proteins reduces your chances of an early death by 34%), perhaps the incentive behind making your feast minus the meat is about celebrating and empowering community (reducing demand for industrial meat and dairy improves access to nutritional foods for poorer communities, supporting local farmers and urban/school garden schemes).

I hope this post inspires you to share your table, create memories, re-connect with nature, and celebrate your community through the best gift of all—good food!

Inga Yandell, Editor BE Journal

 

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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
Inga Yandell

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