When it comes to food, I believe in moderation.
Ok, that is not entirely true.
Maybe just a little?
Nope, if I am honest to myself – and that would mean being honest with you – I have no bone of moderation in my entire body. Not even a little one – a little sliver, hidden in among capillaries and cartilage in the farthest corner of a finger or a little toe.
I eat anything – everything – and sometimes way too much of it.
I can’t help myself, because you see, I am just too curious. As humans we all have a little slider. One that regulates the ratio curiosity to sagacity. Move it to the right and curiosity increases whilst sagacity decreases. Move it in the opposite direction, and the sagacity increases at the cost of curiosity.
Ideally, it should be balanced, somewhere near the middle – or so most would argue. A little bit of this and a little bit of that.
But not in my case.
Curiosity wins every time. Hands down, no contest. It’s as if my slider got stuck, frozen, rusted – and no amount of pushing and pulling will move it.
So here I am: fourty-five years old with too much curiosity and almost no sagacity.
Someone once asked me if I would ever consider becoming vegetarian.
The mere thought of a thousand people crunching celery at the same time, horrifies me.
I have respect for people who make choices and stick to them. Honestly, I do. Except, when they acquire that forlorn look that vegetarians so often have. Seriously, that look that says “don’t you dare look at me, I am not having any fun”.
I have no bones to pick with vegetarians or even vegetables for that matter. I do and have loved both (except those that resemble small trees). But then both must be fresh, clean, crunchy and fun.
I once dated a vegetarian. It was a very long time ago and lasted no more than a few weeks. Meeting her friends was a nightmare.
“Hi, I am M, and I am Ovo”.
“My name is N and I am Ovo-lacto”.
And so the restrictions revealed themselves.
B was vegan, N Plus was “RAW” and N Plus’s boyfriend was Jain. And the flexible one, she was Sattvic. From a higher order, or at least so she behaved.
Can you image a dinner with friends where all meats, eggs, honey, fish, milk, onions, leeks, red lentils, blue cheeses, chocolate, chives, garlic, nutmeg and a million other ingredients are not allowed in or near the food? Where one demanded that you pick her meal up from under an apple tree to prevent the tree from getting hurt?
Now, I believe that if a guy really likes a potato, he is a pretty decent sort of guy, but this lot? Hell nooo!
I take great pride and pleasure in being a cook. Being a cook involves applying heat to ingredients and in doing so, transform them. Change their texture, enhance their flavours and kill the bugs in them. Let them sing and reach their full potential. Share them with others in order to please, to tease, to nourish and to spread and share happiness.
In doing so, I make no distinction between nature’s creations – animal or plant, nut or pulse, fruit or flower. Some I only lightly kiss with heat, others I submerge in it. I cook meals that take only ten minutes, but I also cook meals that allow me to start and finish a decent size novel.
My curiosity for food takes me to new places with unfamiliar ingredients. Once there, it is the food that brings me closer to strangers, and helps me understand and respect them.
How can you learn if you say no? To onions and red lentils, and honey and eggs? Because the fruit was picked from a branch instead of from the ground?
How can you respect if you say no thank you to a kind act of sharing? Even if it meant killing a chicken, or a duck or a goat? What you’re offered might mean that someone might go a little hungry tonight just to feed you, and you say, “no thanks I do not eat chicken”.
I understand the reasons for restrictive food choices, religious, physical or otherwise. And I’ll go as far as respecting some of them. But I have little respect for moral bigotry and insincerity – ideological commitments based on positions of privilege. Unnecessary restraints on joy and pleasure. Careless limitations on freedom and curiosity.
It was Mahatma Ghandi who once said: “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
Think about that the next time you turn down something outside your comfort zone. Think about where it comes from, how it got to you and the people who reach out to share. Unless you’re absolutely certain that the duck, or chicken or pig will bring upon you death or eternal hell and condemnation, do not judge or reject. Instead, just tweak your curiosity slider a little to the left. Be curious and be grateful. The world is dark enough as it is.
I love maguni and every time my visits to the Kavango region coincides with maguni season, I buy as many as I can carry. Alternatively, I make a nuisance of myself and ask everyone going that way, to bring some back for me.
Also known as monkey orange, the fruit from the Strychnos spinosa, deserves star status in our local cuisine. Its flavour compounds includes mandarin, orange and banana. I teamed up with pastry chef Eleini Pavlis of the Kameeldorn Garten restaurant in Otjiwarongo to make this frozen Maguni parfait. As the name suggests it is parfait (perfect).