Sam Mannering starts writing invitations

by | May 11, 2017 | Columns, Food & Drink | 0 comments

I have so many friends within walking distance of my house. Some of them I’ll see barely twice a year. I’ve always felt bad about this sort of thing. We’ll only ever get together at some forced event, and horribly enough, it always seems to be funerals. Even weddings don’t get people together. I’ve been to far too many where everyone stands around afterwards with that same haze of realisation, as someone blurts out that we all must start catching up more often. It never happens. We get too caught up with the littlenesses, the trivial 

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.

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