Time to put desire back on the menu
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Ed Smith’s latest book is about actually listening to what your body wants, Prudence Wade finds out more.
When meal planning or deciding what to have for dinner, how often do you stop and actually think: what do I want to eat?
For many of us, listening to our body’s cravings is pretty low down the list – after more practical considerations, like what you have in the fridge and what will be healthiest/quickest/easiest to rustle up.
Food writer Smith wants to change this, and it’s at the core of his new cookbook – Crave: Recipes arranged by flavour, to suit your mood and appetite. The book does what it says on the tin with six sections organised into separate flavour profiles: fresh and fragrant, tart and sour, chilli and heat, spiced and curried, rich and savoury, and finally, cheesy and creamy.
Smith wants us to start “cooking to your intuition”, he explains. It’s about putting “desire” back on the menu.
“I started thinking, ‘What do I want to eat?’, and I found that what I wanted to eat was sometimes driven by mood, sometimes driven by weather, or sometimes driven by nothing at all. But every time, I could probably focus on one flavour – like today I really want something hot, or I want something savoury – there’s always a reason behind it.”
Smith admits he “doesn’t have the perfect answer” but this is, for him, “the most robust and logical way of thinking about it”.
Trying to identify what we’re craving might seem unusual to some, as ‘cravings’ tend to evoke ‘illicit’ images of chocolate, biscuits and sugary snacks, right?
Not necessarily. “So often, when people talk about comfort food, the media depicts it as sitting on the sofa eating a bucket of ice cream,” says Smith. “That’s kind of true – sometimes you do seek solace in sweet, creamy things. But actually, more often than not, that’s a slight under-representation of what comfort food can be.
“Comfort food, food that takes you to a happy place, is very often your childhood – which for some people can be beans on toast, roast chicken, chicken soup. But for other people, spicy food is the food of their native heritage that they were used to eating. So comfort food is different things to different people.”
That’s why Smith shaped the book around all different types of flavours, giving people the power to choose what’s right for them.
“I’m not going to prescribe you the recipe because of your mood. It’s not for me to tell you what is comforting. But what I’ve tried to do is offer the reader a solution, or ways to find what will comfort them,” he explains.
Crave: Recipes arranged by flavour, to suit your mood and appetite by Ed Smith is published by Quadrille, priced £25.