The catering department

The catering department

The one thing I am sure of – now, more than ever before – is that food is my drug of choice.

The right snack delivered at the right time is pharmaceutical in its benefits; a form of alchemy that can turn a leaden mood into something golden and blissful.

During this weird period of house arrest I have turned to the fridge and the pantry as sources of solace, making increasingly elaborate comfort foods and baking muffins, cakes and biscuits. The fan-forced hum of the oven has become a mantra in the background.

Whether it’s grocery shopping, Googling recipes or the simple action of chopping veggies or sautéeing garlic, everything to do with food soothes and uplifts me.

The vibrant colour of a beetroot in cross-section, the satisfaction of slow-cooked beef falling apart or the thrill of a new dish working better than expected.

And then there’s the spice cupboard and the herb garden, where the world’s gastronomic and botanic history lives. Cinnamon from Sri Lanka, rambling oregano from the Mediterranean. All of it reminds me of places visited, or that I am yearning to see.

Which then sends me into reveries of meals past. The lava-hot takoyaki eaten strolling through a crowded Kyoto park during cherry blossom, the cheese burger at Duke’s on Waikiki beach on the first night of my honeymoon, the grilled fish eaten overlooking Lake Titicaca or the fig gelato eaten on the cobblestones of Rome. There’s the rice paper roll with the crispy fried fish and fresh pineapple in the Mekong delta and the long-poured chai drunk beside a dusty track in an Indian village.

Food is a magic carpet that can take you back in time to your nanna’s kitchen table or forward to the future of your dreams as you prepare imaginary meals for your grown-up children and grandchildren.

When people ask me about my hopes for the future, my only vision is this: a long table in a grassy backyard. There are children and dogs running around, there are umbrellas perched over the table, there’s wine in an icy tub and there are share plates down the centre. Above all, there’s friends and family enjoying a long lunch in the sun, laughing, talking and feeling carefree. That’s my dream and I am already working out the menu.

What dishes or food experiences have comforted you over the last few months?

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