We are taught that our food should be perfect. Big glittering apples without spots, scrubbed clean carrots with no tops, bleached-white chicken eggs and blood-red meat. These are like supermodel foods. These are they things we are told we should want. Sometimes we can get so brainwashed that what we think we want and what we truly enjoy become muddled and confused. We begin to think that “perfect” carrot will somehow make us a better cook.
We are also taught that the people we love should be perfect. Sometimes we say, “perfect for me”, which is just another way of saying you’re looking for an ideal. No one is perfect and no one is perfect for you. I’m not talking about loving someone who is as dangerous as, say, Puffer Fish sushi on a bed of ruhbarb leaves. I’m talking about someone who is a spotted apple, a dirty mushroom, a garden variety man who could use a little salt. But our consumer culture has demonized every imperfection.
I told JJ once, “maybe you should stop thinking about what you want and start thinking about what you like.” Blank stare. A little head shake.
“I just don’t think that way.” He dug around in his food a bit. “It might surprise you to hear me say this, but I don’t have a very good opinion of myself.”
It didn’t surprise me at all. When all we think about is what we want, like a shiny-apple person to date, it says to others that we think we are missing something in ourselves and we believe these people will make us whole, or happy or better. When we think about what we like about someone we are confirming our own authority. More often than not we concentrate on a person’s failings, or whether or not they meet our ideal, rather than nurturing the things we like about them.
We are spoon fed perfection by our culture – George Clooney’s, with heads full of beautiful salt-and-pepper hair. Apparently my own authority tells me time and time again that I find men with receding hairlines and crooked smiles quite attractive. We are told that the men we should want are as sweet as honey. My authority tells me I’m a fan of extra-sharp wit, a touch of bitter and a sour aftertaste. Lost, confused, self-absorbed, childish, some self-loathing, a little cowardliness and all sorts of other reprehensible behavior that the world tells me I should run from seems pretty tasty to me.
Here is what the Dalai Lama has to say about love and cooking.
- Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
- Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.
When we leave the possibility open for liking things we never thought we might have wanted, we open our selves to a real and genuine experience. There is nothing perfect about any of the people I love in my life. Truth be told, I don’t have a very good opinion of JJ either sometimes. He can be an emotional moron who’s recipe for love seems to be to assume instead of ask, run away and throw in a bit of dis-ingenuousness once in a while for flavor, but it has not yet stopped me from loving him anyway.
Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Love Cake
for the cake
• 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
• 100g butter, softened
• 100g caster sugar
• 1 egg, preferably free-range or organic • 100g self-raising flour
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ½ tin of black cherries, drained
• 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, chopped
for the chocolate sauce
• 25g butter
• 142ml oz double cream
• 75g good-quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
• a splash of brandy, rum, Amaretto or Baileys
Cooking time 1 hour
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4 and grease a small ovenproof dish (9 or 10 inches) with butter.
Mix the cocoa powder with a few tablespoons of boiling water and stir until the mixture is lovely and smooth.
In another bowl or a food mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light, then add the cocoa mixture, egg, flour and baking powder. Mix it all together really well, pour into your ovenproof dish and sprinkle the cherries and hazelnuts on top before putting in the oven for about 25 minutes.
While your cake is baking, make your chocolate sauce. Place the butter in a small pan with the cream and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and add your chocolate pieces to the pan. Give it all a good stir and then leave it for 5 minutes so that the hot cream can melt the chocolate. Add a splash of your desired alcohol and stir until thoroughly combined.
To check if your cake is ready, give it a bit of a jiggle and if it doesn’t wobble too much then it’s done, if not, give it a few more minutes in the oven.
Once it’s ready, pour your warm chocolate sauce all over the cake and either share it right from the dish or serve it up on two small plates with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream or double cream. Delicious.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident – Thoreau