— Life —

For the Love of Food

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It’s a gorgeous evening in London. The setting sun casts a rosy glow across the threshold of the building as I enter. I’m delighted by the space; beautiful high ceilings and huge Victorian windows, it’s going to be a pleasure dining here tonight.

I’m welcomed by a woman, wearing a crimson dress, who hands me a glass of bubbly and a card. “Here’s a question to ask if you run out of things to talk about.” I thank her and move on, I doubt I’ll need the question.

I work my way around a few groups and start talking to a woman in her early 20s. She is clearly nervous. After we’ve exchanged pleasantries, she blurts out her question and looks at me expectantly.

I launch into an enthusiastic speech about my love of food. I tell her about exploring farmer’s markets, cooking, entertaining and eating out. I aware I’m talking too much, and I can’t help but notice that she appears somewhat confused. I comment that she’s probably wondering why food doesn’t play a part in my profession. “Actually, I asked you, what’s your question?” I’m slightly embarrassed as I thought she’d asked me, “What’s your passion?”

My first solo foray into the ‘culinary arts’ was aged 10. I decided to surprise my family by cooking dinner, choosing to make a fried rice dish. I’d always helped my mother in the kitchen but wasn’t experienced or perhaps even old enough to be working alone, evidenced by the fact that I failed to boil the rice before adding it to the other ingredients. I think we ate baked beans on toast for dinner that night. I do know that, decades later, my family still laughs about ‘the rice episode,’ and let’s not even mention the charred chocolate cake.

When I left home I had enough knowledge to ensure I didn’t starve, and a file full of fail-safe recipes. But much as I liked cooking, it wasn’t something I loved.

It was only when I signed up to do two years of hospitality training, post-college, that things began to change. I learned about knives, repetition, onions, carrots and celery – the base for just about every classic French dish. I learned not just about food, but also about far-flung destinations, cultures and traditions. My love of travel started in my belly. I remember one particular night, when I returned home, convinced I’d just experienced the closest thing to eating dinner in Italy. I was desperate to eat and cook my way around the world.

Fast-forward almost 20 years later, and I’m more in love with food than ever. My first stop when abroad is to the local produce market or to a specialty food shop of some description. And I collect recipes of the dishes I try on my travels the way some people collect trinkets. Making them for family and friends once I’m back home is a way of further enriching the experience. And there’s nothing I enjoy more than bringing the people I love together around my table.

I’m not a fancy cook, but I’m a loving and consistent one. And in a world that sometimes feels a little obsessed with food – either with over indulging or avoiding it – and seemingly intent on complicating it, to me it remains one of life’s simple pleasures.


  • mamavalveeta03 September 2, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Esther, who needs fancy when you’ve got “loving and consistent”? I’d take those qualities any day. What do we run to when we’ve had a bad day or a bit of sad news? Comfort food, of course. And there isn’t anything fancy about that. It dawns on me that I need to be less fearful and more confident about the “loving and consistent” style of my dinners, and open the doors and let people in!

    • 1010 Park Place September 2, 2015 at 8:34 pm

      Great point, Val! I think it’s the getting together with friends, making new friends, that’s more important than whether your table has sparkling setting or your food is gourmet. I use my guests as guinea pigs, trying things I’ve never fixed. Some are favorites, some are failures, but I just tell them they’re guinea pigs and laugh it off. As long as you’ve got wine, dessert, music and relaxed conversation, no one will remember Essie’s fried rice. LOL! Except as a cute family story. I wish we all lived near one another! I’d have you both over this weekend. xoxox, Brenda

      • Esther Zimmer September 3, 2015 at 9:58 am

        Brenda, I love your approach and I wish we lived closer too! Essie xx

      • mamavalveeta03 September 8, 2015 at 10:49 pm

        That sounds like a BLAST!

    • Esther Zimmer September 3, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Exactly! I went through a stage of making quite complicated dishes, but it didn’t last very long. I prefer to keep things simple otherwise you end up in the kitchen all night whilst your guests wonder where you are. These days I’ll even ‘cheat’ with pre-roasted chickens (gasp!) if I’m really running low on time. Better to do that than not to host at all. I agree with Brenda – it’s the getting together and making new friends that counts – throw open those doors! xx

      • mamavalveeta03 September 8, 2015 at 10:48 pm

        I love the idea of the pre-roasted chicken! I’ll report back on my “dinner party”! 😉

        • Esther Zimmer September 11, 2015 at 1:12 pm

          Please do! I’d love to know how it went! xx

  • Lynne October 11, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Five years ago, my husband, my son and I were wine tasting in Walla Walla, when I spied a Le Creuset Dutch oven in a kitchen shop window. The wine in me said . . . “It’s French cookware . . . way out of my budget . . . I have read that it’s amazing!” Jay returned to snap an image of oven when I was not looking. At Christmas, Jay gifted an oven to me. ( “He said, Mom you were not kidding! This is your Christmas, birthday, and Mothers Day gift !” ) My husband gifted me a French cooking class. In class I cooked in Le Creuset that was over 20 years old. I still am amazed how that amazing hunk of sculpted cast iron changed my cooking style forever. “Loving, consistent, comfort and giving.” How lovely it is that we are all speaking the same “love” language, under The Rice Episode!

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