La Dolce Vita
article and photo by Alastair Gregor
What would it be like if we didn’t have any choice about what to eat? It would be mundane. I think of my old dog ‘Brie’ try as I might to give her the best organic dog kibble, no matter what, she would look at it and push it out of the bowl with her nose in obvious disapproval, and she would lie there with those eyes asking, “What? You can’t do better than kibble?”
Yet as soon as I started to cook, she would watch my every move, not missing a thing – “Doggie TV,” as my friend Benjamin called it. Given the choice, Brie would always eat what I cooked and shared.
I think of all the wonderful times I have had around food and truly, to love life, you have to love food. My great-aunt Mave recently passed away peacefully at 94 years of age. She loved food and always introduced me, with a hearty laugh and smiling eyes, as her gourmet chef.
Mave had a great appetite and loved to eat delicious food: “Oh boy, oh boy, what are we going to have today?” she would ask. I would always find a variety of seasonal fresh fruit combinations for breakfast: mango, pomegranate and kiwi or blueberries, strawberries and apple, with a little organic plain yogurt, cinnamon and honey. This was part of her secret to a long life.
When I was a kid, she taught me how to eat pizza, how to properly hold it with a slight fold so you don’t lose the toppings. And it was with Mave that we celebrated life and the bounty it offers at large family parties at charming restaurants, with gleaming silver and crisp white linens.
When I think about all my family gatherings, I realize the most fun was always centred on the creation, preparation and enjoyment of wonderful meals. Food is our common ground, a universal experience; it is what brings us together. Welcoming new neighbours with gift baskets of food, including summer jams and fruit pies along with fresh cut flowers has often laid the foundation for creating life-long friendships.
Food repairs relationships and can even create special adopted families. Think of the movie Julie & Julia where the character Julie practices techniques and tests each of the recipes from Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking on her friends, culminating in a special family of friends who courageously celebrate culinary disasters and triumphs together!
So many times I’ve heard someone say they don’t like a particular food. Take cauliflower; I toss it with organic olive oil, sea salt and allspice and roast it in the oven to caramelize it and the person loves it! Or I blanch the flowerets, drain them and pan fry them in butter tossed with finely chopped ripe banana until the banana is melted and the cauliflower is well coated and lightly caramelized. Near the end, I finish it off with chilli flakes and sea salt. Astonishment! They go crazy for it. These are accidental dishes I created out of necessity for people who hadn’t yet experienced the adventure of food.
For me, there is nothing better than seeing everyone at the dinner table talking, laughing and sharing, followed by the quiet that descends when, for a few minutes, everyone is just in their zone savouring the delicious food. Then the mmm’s and ahh’s start along with questions about whether people have tried this or that. The sharing, the laughter, the interaction – cooking truly is like love.
Make this Latin phrase your new life motto: “Dum vivimus, vivamus!” – “While we live, let’s live!”
To advertise your restaurant, food product or service in our Good Eats section, please contact food writer Chef Alastair Gregor at email@example.com Alastair’s life-long passion for food was inherited from his grandmother. He’s an Honours graduate of the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island at VIU and has been cooking since he was old enough to see over the top of the stove.