Cook And Serve: How to Show Your Love

This story originally appeared on the Gents Cafe Newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Here at Gents Cafe we love the finest things in life – amazing landscapes seen through a unique perspective, handcrafted goods that will last you a lifetime and develop charming dents. And what can be more valuable than your own precious time and effort?

For me, cooking a meal has proved to be a meaningful way to show my affection, of saying, “I want to get my hands dirty so we can enjoy each other.” 

I remember growing up with my Brazilian mom and aunties preparing all sorts of snacks and decorations for our birthdays, mine and my cousin’s. The little sandwiches, hot dogs wrapped in tin foil, soda in plastic cups, and the house decorated with our favourite superheroes.

Maybe that’s when the bug bit me; who knows.

Today, as someone who cooks for a living, I appreciate the tenderness imbued in simple food made with tons of love even more. And I think your family and friends will too.

Keep it simple:

I know it’s tempting to go for an over-the-top, Julia Child-like dish, but trust me, you don’t want that kind of mess. Instead, stick to your strengths, the things you know you can deliver well (and it’s not grilled cheese, we’ll save that for another hour). You don’t want to take any major risks to serve tasty affection.

Think of something that, if you were cooking just for yourself, would feel like a treat. Now turn it up a notch: maybe just a fancy pasta shape or some top-shelf cheese are enough to do the trick.

Eat the seasons:

Here in Portugal we have lovely figs, but only by the end of summer. And as much as I’d love to get my hands on some sweet, creamy “pingo de mel” figs, they would be fibrous and stale – it’s the wrong season.

Take a look at traditional seasonal foods from where you’re from: you’ll find out that food culture has a lot to do with eating the best food available at any given moment.

Veggies for life:

When we think about offering food as a sign of affection, our minds easily go to large steaks or succulent fish fillets with crispy skin – at least, so does mine. But with a little research, you’ll find gorgeous vegetable sides (or entire menus) that can elevate any dinner. If we’re being honest, vegetables are responsible for most of the flavour in a remarkable meal. That large cut of meat we picture gets much better with potatoes and a wine reduction, doesn’t it?

Dessert first:

I love dessert, but hate making it – so, if you’re going all in from starters to sweets, my hat is off. Just remember a couple of things. First, you start by making the dessert, preferably the day before. Second, instead of going for a heavy dessert, consider something citrusy or fruity to close things on a lighter note, leaving everyone less tempted to doze on the couch.

Go beyond food:

The most remarkable part of a meal is probably not the food, but the company. And, in our case, the thought we put into it. 

So, if you have special china, it is the right time to bring it out. Decorate the table with those Pinterest ideas you’ve been saving (what do you mean you haven’t?!). Write people’s names on small pieces of paper and tie them to rosemary twigs. Light candles, put on some Jordan Mackampa, and welcome your guests with a little apéritif.

Have fun:

Most of all, have fun. When stress hits you – and oh boy, it will hit you – keep in mind why you’re doing this, and who you’re doing this for. Dance a little, have a sip of wine or beer, take bites of everything to see if you like it. Don’t just think about cooking as a means to an end, but try approaching the whole thing as a new experience – a fun, messy one.

When your guests arrive, smell whatever you’ve been cooking, listen to the music, and see the smile on your face, they will feel loved. And so will you.

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