Play With Your Food, But Respect The Ingredients

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

I know we use the tagline "Always Play With Your Food", it's pretty catchy, it has grown on me more and more over the last few years. It is the type of catch phrase that is meant to be light hearted and playful. A phrase meant to encourage people to get involved more in cooking and to have fun with it. It's not rocket science and we learn from our mistakes more than our successes. Cliché I know, but here it applies. Get your hands dirty.

Challenge yourself to cook maybe 1 additional homemade meal a week (to start with) as opposed to a take out order, and build from there. Now I know you're probably thinking 'how did he get all of that from Always Play With Your Food' ? I didn't. Not at first anyway. It originated because as I was starting a previous website many moons ago, the initial template settings asked me to enter the name of the website and a tagline. So excited to get a site up and online in a hurry, I quickly typed 'Always Play With Your Food', because, as the tutorial wizard informed me, it could always be changed later.

Now, looking back I see that I have actually changed my approach to cooking. I quite literally have incorporated the "Play With Your Food" approach into my everyday preparations, as well as how content is promoted and presented on the website. It wasn't a conscious decision, and I certainly didn't have this mind set during my 'professional' years as a working chef.

During those years, I was a very 'nose to the grindstone' type of worker who lived to work, and didn't work to make a living. Wild horses couldn't have pulled me out of the kitchen or office, and sad to say, I was loving every minute of it. Not that it is sad to love what you do for a living. As the saying says "If you love what you do, you never work a single day in your life...". But with me it cost me a lot, and I wasn't realizing it at the time. It didn't cost me financially, you can't work and lose money, when you're working so much you literally don't have time to spend it. But it cost me in terms of a social life, relationships, both personal and with my family, health issues and almost all of my friends. Because those that are not working in the industry, often don't understand its demands. But I'm straying.

Whether it was in my working years, or the years now where I cook to enjoy, entertain and publish content. There's always been one main constant. It took me a while to get it sorted in my head, and I really didn't realize that I was doing it, until I attended chef school. That one constant has and always will be "Respect Your Ingredients."

Not is this only an issue because of how many starving people there are in the world, or how food banks are getting hit so hard these days and often cannot meet demands. Although that is a big part of it that should never be overlooked. But there is so, so much work and dedication involved from getting food from the farm, to the shelves in our favourite grocery store and ultimately to our tables. Whether it's something as simple as fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, or an Angus Beef Sirloin that has us salivating in the butcher's cabinet, or the perfectly ripe tomato. Somebody, somewhere has put in the time, effort and energy to see it through the whole process (in cases of meats that can be years) so that it is available on the shelves for us to purchase, prepare, cook and enjoy.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Farmers are the hardest working people on the planet." Probably with the most thankless job to boot. Let's not forget the animals that give their lives so that we can reap the benefits. Which so infuriates me when I see the wastefulness on stupid Food Network competition shows. But that's a subject for a different op-ed. Just something to always keep in the back of your mind.

So yes, Play With Your Food!! Get your hands dirty, experiment with flavours. But be mindful of those who work behind the scenes, in the fields, on the farms to provide us with the tools to be able to do so. Waste not, use all parts and most importantly, play respectfully and with thanks.

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