I’ve decid­ed that food is the answer. It always has been.

I often find myself drawn to cul­tures that have been through more than their fair share of strife, because it’s there that you’ll see the most love. And it’s always expressed through food. I think of places like Chi­na, the Mid­dle East and Viet­nam: cradles of con­flict and oppres­sion for thou­sands of years, and yet the peo­ple are always so gen­er­ous. And their cuisi­nes are so pow­er­ful, so impor­tant to their way of life. Cook­ing is love, no mat­ter what. Whether you are sit­ting around a pot in a bomb shel­ter or hid­ing out in the jun­gle, it means that you get to be fed soon and that you will make it through anoth­er day. It means that for a few brief moments, every­one is safe, con­tent­ed, togeth­er.

I’ve recent­ly dis­cov­ered Chef’s Table on Net­flix. I gen­er­al­ly cot­ton on to pop­u­lar cul­ture approx­i­mate­ly two years after every­body else. One episode focus­es on Jeong Kwan, a South Kore­an Zen Bud­dhist nun, whose sim­ple veg­e­tar­i­an food has blown the minds of the glob­al culi­nary elite, from Eric Ripert to the New York Times.

What dri­ves the beau­ti­ful essence of Jeong’s food is her unselfish­ness, her gen­eros­i­ty — a sep­a­ra­tion from the ego; a sim­ple desire to do good through food. And it’s that atti­tude that makes her work so stun­ning.

We’re too damn lucky here, but it seems to be push­ing us apart. I don’t want to sound too tedious­ly pious here, but food should be bring­ing us togeth­er. I’ve realised that being a chef should make me a bit of a torch­bear­er. I can’t think of a bet­ter way to express gen­eros­i­ty and love than through food.

Where am I going with this?

We don’t have much to com­plain about here. Things seem all a bit grim else­where at the moment, what with mani­a­cal toupees and xeno­pho­bia on the rise as if the 20th cen­tu­ry nev­er hap­pened. Oth­ers drib­ble on about Fin­land or Den­mark being so won­der­ful, but then again, who wants to have Putin breath­ing down your neck at the promise of some nice new Leben­sraum? We do pret­ty well down here in our lit­tle cor­ner of the Paci­fic. Per­haps going that lit­tle extra mile to make more of an effort isn’t quite so hard after all.

Basi­cal­ly, I’m going to start invit­ing my friends around for din­ner more. And you should, too. I’m get­ting tired say­ing and hear­ing ‘oh we must catch up’ and then ten years go by and we’re at a funer­al.

It prob­a­bly won’t make you as zen as Jeong Kwan, but it will remind you how lucky we are.

@SAM.MANNERING

POSHGIRAFFEPUBLISHING.CO.NZ

Sam Man­ner­ing — Invite Me to Din­ner