Food: Chef Ed Smith listens to what your body wants

When planning a meal or deciding what to eat for dinner, how often do you stop and really think: what do I want to eat?

For many of us, listening to our body’s cravings is quite low on the list – after more practical considerations, like what you have in the fridge and what will be healthiest / fastest / easiest to eat. scramble.

Food writer Ed Smith wants to change that, and it’s at the heart of his new cookbook – Crave: Recipes Arranged by Flavor, Based on Your Mood and Appetite. The book does what it says on the box with six sections organized into distinct flavor profiles: fresh and fragrant, tangy and sour, chili and tangy, spicy and curry, rich and salty, and finally, cheesy and creamy.

Smith wants us to start “cooking on your intuition,” he explains. It’s about putting “desire” back on the menu. “I started to think, ‘What do I want to eat?’, And found that what I wanted to eat was sometimes motivated by mood, sometimes by the weather, or sometimes by nothing. all. But every time, I could probably focus on a flavor – like today, I really want something hot, or I want something tasty – there’s always a reason behind it. ”

Smith admits that he “doesn’t have the perfect answer” but it is, for him, “the most robust and the most logical way to think about it”.

Trying to identify what we crave may seem unusual to some, as ‘cravings’ tend to conjure up ‘illicit’ images of chocolate, cookies, and sugary snacks, right?

Not necessarily. “A lot of times when people talk about comfort food the media portray it as sitting on the couch eating a bucket of ice cream,” Smith says. “It’s kind of true – sometimes you look for solace in sweet and creamy things. But in fact, more often than not, it’s a slight under-representation of what comfort foods can be.

“Comfort food, the food that takes you to a happy place, is very often your childhood – which for some people may be beans on toast, roast chicken, chicken soup. But for others, spicy food is their native heritage food that they used to eat. So comfort food is different for different people. ”

That’s why Smith has shaped the book around all types of flavors, giving people the power to choose what works for them. “I am not going to prescribe the recipe for you because of your mood. It is not for me to tell you what is comforting. But what I have tried to do is offer the reader a solution, or ways to find what will comfort him., “he explains.

“Sometimes we’re looking for food that you can dive into, but more often than not, the food that will make you happiest if it’s full of fresh and fragrant things, things that make you feel good,” Smith suggests. . “So you’ll bounce back faster to have tasty food, lighter food – dare I say it, healthier food.”

If Crave seems like it was written by a hyper-organized person, it was – before changing careers and diving into the world of food (he has already published two previous cookbooks: The Borough Market Cookbook and On The Side. ), Smith was a lawyer.

“I think I have a pretty analytical and orderly mind,” he said to himself. “This is reflected in the use of bullets and in the whole thematic approach. The additional directories and indexing is probably related to my experience as a lawyer – I know a lot of my lawyer friends still comment on this as their favorite part. of my books. The analytical and structuring elements probably make too many witness statements and regulatory reviews. “Transferable skills that no one saw coming – certainly ‘no one in law school,’ smiles Smith.

“I think I realized about five years in law that whatever you want to do in life, if you want to be successful, you are going to work hard and for a long time. I started writing a food blog as a creative outlet – a reason to cook something every week and a reason to go to new restaurants. It made me realize that working hard – maybe I wanted to do this in an industry that really interested me. ”

He embarked on a catering school and began writing recipes, many of which were inspired by his original love of going out to restaurants and trying new cuisines. This global perspective is reflected in Crave, but Smith doesn’t claim to be an expert in cooking from countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka.

“I’m not an authority in them, and I don’t want people to think I am,” he says bluntly – that’s why he has a directory on the back of Crave showing you other books. kitchen where you can learn more.

“The past year in particular has been a wake-up call in food media and modern life to understand the heritage and history of food,” says Smith. “There’s always more than just a dish, there’s a reason why things happened, and I think it’s good to think about it and point people in the right direction.”

At the end of the day, he just wants Crave to be a “food-thinking forum.”

Crave: Recipes Arranged by Flavor, to Suit Your Mood and Appetite by Ed Smith is published by Quadrille on May 27, priced at £ 25. Photograph by Sam A Harris.

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