I forget to sprinkle nutmeg in my ragu. Outside of carrot cake, I reserve carrots for anything but dessert. When I think of parsnips there are about three dishes that are top of mind, none of which involve chocolate. My instant reaction to cleaning out the fridge is a soup, not a salad. I underestimate nuts and seeds. I grab salt to season.
We all come to the table with our own set of edible perceptions. They sit beside our forks coloring the way we see the meal in front of us. Whether we are aware of them is another story. The past year and especially the past two months I have been faced with my own culinary “realties” causing me to ask why a lot. Why is this comforting to me? Why am I cautious to taste this? Why am I surprised by this?
At Nordic Food Lab I was greeted with drawers labeled “microbes” and a cold room lined with slowly fermenting bins dating back since the labs inception. In the freezer the grasshoppers sit next to the bacon. I have tried blood ice cream, bee larvae soup, udder, viili (Finnish fermented milk) and countless droppers of “juices” pulled from unrecognizable tubs of bubbling something. Some tastes have been wonderful, others incredibly challenging, but it’s not the projects that have me questioning my own recipe book. It is staff meal.
Eleven people, eight nationalities. This means at least eleven different perspectives on how to eat cabbage. Let alone, the views on utilizing leftovers. Each day a portion of the eleven swell into the kitchen looking through the ingredients to determine the menu. Drawing inspiration from around the world and the dreary Copenhagen winter, the meals are always inventive and offer at least one dish that is new to my taste buds. I leave the table with one question, why?
Why can’t dessert be served with your meal? Why do I rely on cinnamon so much? Why can’t you eat rice with your hands? Why haven’t I tried to boil and puree the whole orange before mixing it in my cake? Why has no one ever told me that egg whites folded in mayo is delicious? Why don’t I grate more vegetables? Why is this the first time I am trying squash Carpaccio? Why don’t I make my own kombucha at home? Why have I never seen food this way?
We often get stuck in food routines. Tired from a long day we don’t search for innovation in the kitchen we seek out comfort. We rely on the same magazines, blogs and websites for new recipes, yet get used to that particular style of cooking. It is natural, and I am sure once I settle back home, I will sink back into my food routines. For the past two months nothing has been expected in my eating habits and for these two months I have been relishing the why. Of course, I am hoping as I peer into my pantry I continue to see with a new set of eyes, broadened by techniques, spices, possibilities and always asking “why?”
***All Pictures courtesy of Avery MacGuire and Nordic Food Lab Family Meal Tumblr. Click on the pictures to visit the Family Meal site.***