June 7, 2015 by Susan Murray
I know what you are thinking.
“Food Philosophy? She’s been living in Asheville too long!”
But there is a reason for this. Recently James and I have working on an update of the website for the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. This has lead to a lot of discussion about what we are and what makes our B&B stand out from the 43 other Bed & Breakfasts in Asheville. We have narrowed our focus to three things which we feel really define the Carolina Breakfast.
1. The Atmosphere
2. The Style
3. The Food
I will talk about the first two items in future blog posts but for now I would like to concentrate on the food.
A food philosophy is a cuisine referenced by ideals. Vegetarianism is an example of a food philosophy. The Slow Food movement, Farm to Table Cuisine and The Paleo Diet are all examples of food philosophies driven by beliefs.
I grew up in house with a mother who loved to cook, a father who adored her and her food, and five brothers and sisters which meant there was a lot of cooking to be done. My mother shopped economically: so-called “convenience” foods, processed and factory-prepared, were too expensive for a large family. Our food was made from “scratch” and it was divine! My mother frequented the local farm throughout the summer and fall. The smell of MacIntosh apples always brings me back to my childhood as she would buy them by the bushel and store them in the garage. Corn was only eaten in the summer. Fresh tomatoes were a treat and our go-to snack was the fruit bowl filled with whatever fruit was in season.
For my mother, food was an expression of love. She knew what was the favorite dish for each of her children and thought nothing of baking a special pie or cookie just because someone in her family loved it. She also loved to try new dishes. She was an early fan of Julia Child and enthusiastically cooked Coq Au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon for her family, served with a large salad and fresh bread. I spent many happy hours in the kitchen, talking with her and learning while helping prepare our family meals.
This early experience with food was reinforced when we moved to Paris in 1981. And again in the markets of Asia and in my own kitchen garden in England. But it wasn’t until a conversation I had in Cuba with two fellow travellers that I found my food philosophy. They introduced me to the concept of Prana, the Ayurveda concept that there is a vital energy, or life force, present in fresh fruits and vegetables which are sourced locally and in season. Bob and Mary went on to say that they felt this same force was present when someone lovingly and meaningfully prepares food.
Now I don’t buy into all of that. But I do believe that fruit and vegetables taste better when ripened on the vine (or in the tree!) and eaten in season. I believe that the additives used to prolong the shelf life of many foods along with the adjustment of taste to the lowest common denominator has corrupted their flavor and quality. I believe that good flavor comes from many aspects, that a good cook should use fresh herbs and spices as well as salt and sugar to sharpen flavors and brighten dishes. I do not believe that “real” foods like butter, whole milk and eggs are bad for you per se. A varied diet will use moderate amounts of all things and it will be “balanced”. And I believe that this will result in better health as well as a more enjoyable dining experience.
I also believe that dining should be a joyous occasion and that my role as a chef is to make food which creates that sense of joy and celebrates the diners. There’s a reason food is linked with magic and art. Ingredients form the Chef’s palate and the meal is her canvas. She brings all of her experiences of flavor, smell and appearance to create a memory for her guests. This is her gift to them. Their gift in return is the silence of the first few bites followed by the sound of conversation and laughter at the table!
Posted in Carolina Bed and Breakfast, Innkeeping, Wine and Food | Tagged Butternut Squash Quiche, Food Philosophy, Prana, Shrimp Cerviche, White Russian Cupcakes | Leave a comment