THERE WAS A TIME when everything that was new and different was also compelling. A new bakery in the neighbourhood was a thing to be excited about. It brought with it the promise of mornings soaked in crisp aromas of fresh loaves and exchanges of light banter between neighbours on their way to or back from the market. It suggested an uplift in the atmosphere of a street; just a little, not too much, nothing to ruin the comfortable familiarity of what we still called home.
Food is fuel, feed the car good gas and it runs well, feed the car bad gas it runs badly, it is as simple as that.
Food then, is not simply pleasure or nourishment. More often than not, it is also a memory; a time and a place; that day when you lost a loved one and making your own almond milk calmed you down; connecting with a stranger over the shared love of Russian dumplings; even exchanging recipes for perfectly boiling an egg.
The truth, as Denise would like us to understand it, is simple: we eat everyday, and therefore there is no reason not to take it more seriously. In an ideal world, she’s the person who invites everyone into her kitchen, the person who equates happiness with putting together a meal for someone else, the person who cooks and bakes because these are love affairs, and not merely an act of the everyday. But as this isn’t possible, she invites us into her kitchen with words instead.
Language, after all, is a doorway into new experiences. We tell stories, share perspectives, understate, exaggerate, all in attempt to explore the unfamiliar. In this case, the notion of eating well is something many of us probably don’t fully understand or appreciate.
We all rub into unknown circumstances unconsciously, and often wonder how it started at the beginning. Like making scones, while step one takes time, I believe in good intentions, that with tenderness there will be joy and contentment.
Fresh, wholesome and healthy food is also that feeling when you wake up well ahead of your alarm clock’s dissonant intrusion, miraculously rested and refreshed, just in time for the first rays of the morning sun filtering in through the gentle rise and fall of your room's curtains. This is what Denise’s writing tries to help us create room for in our lives. In pursuit of convenience and productivity, we make do with processed food, microwave everything, and decide that everything is perfectly okay. But it’s not, because our bodies thrive on what we choose to put into them. And then it is also so much more than this.
The cookbook that Denise is now putting together (with friend and co-writer Elodie Bellegarde) presents recipes that have been influenced by both their moods and their emotions. Their recipes reflect who they are as human beings, and bring together two very different cultures to be expressed in the singular passion of making good food possible for everyone. After all, so much of who we are is defined by what we eat, and what’s there to suggest that eating better will not make us better people, or at least people who feel better about life?
As the age-old adage goes, “If it tastes good it doesn’t mean its good for you.” The cookbook that will be published very soon takes this aphorism to task by suggesting that you can eat what tastes good, and still have it be good for you.
Make your food worth the salt, your meal worth the time and most of all, be mindful and present to life.
Every so often, we leave the responsibility of crafting good food to others. We pay good money; sometimes we get what we pay for, sometimes we don’t. In the midst of all this, we forget that more often than not, these are dishes we could have created ourselves in a few simple steps. The joy of sharing what one has created, especially food, carries with it a particular quality of intimacy because it requires trust on both sides. After all, to entrust someone with the responsibility of feeding you - that is something we take for granted, along with being able to trust ourselves to deliver on something we can take pride in. Who hasn’t had the experience of a potentially beautiful night being ruined by mediocre edibles merely decorating the dinner table? How incredible it must feel to be able to take charge of that, remembering that good food is good conversation and good spirits as much as it is good nourishment.
While staring through the glass window in the kitchen, I wonder if customers understand our passion to serve wholesome food. That a simple tomato mozzarella sandwich is made with slices of heirloom tomatoes, shipped in either from France or America on specific days, smeared with pesto freshly made throughout the week, topped with mozzarella shredded by hand, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and pressed on the grill until the bread becomes well-crisp.
These are the things that are captured in the way Denise writes about food. She reminds us that food stands at the center of our lives in more ways than one. In the way that literature is not only language but also ideas, places and catharsis, likewise is it with food. If we are so careful with the kinds of words we consume, why do we not do the same with what we eat?