I consider myself pretty normal, so I assume that everyone has cravings. However, I have to wonder whether the intensity of mine is normal. Generally I long for something savoury, umami flavours normally giving me the fix I need.
I recently hungered for a soft, sweetish, long roll spread with salted butter and topped with a hot, oven-grilled, slightlysmoked, butcher-made, cheese-oozing Vienna sausage. Drizzled with South Africa’s number one tomato sauce, this was all that would satisfy that evening’s craving!
Obviously this is a bit strange when you consider that I had just served up gourmet cuisine to the guests at Hartford House, and my parents often laugh in disbelief when I tell them that all I want to eat is my mother’s roast chicken, or spaghetti bolognaise, even boiled tongue with a mustard sauce, peas and blanched carrots. “Such simple food,” they say, but I know that that statement is so far from the truth.
I can’t be sure whether I’m craving an ingredient or dish, or the emotions and feelings that I associate with these items when I eat them. The simple but grand hot dog reminds me of family togetherness - something I miss now that my career keeps me on the hop. Maybe I’m a tad difficult when it comes to food and I turn my ‘wants’ into 'needs' to justify my craving. I remember telling my mother once that I needed a chocolate. She looked at me and said “No my darling, you don’t need one you just want one.” That kept me quiet for a little bit, but since then my desire has turned into needing rather than wanting and as I mature I question the source of a craving. Maybe I have an iron deficiency because life without chicken livers would be impossible. Regardless of whether this is a deficiency, a craving, a need or a want, all I know is that if I don’t eat livers when I want/need them, I’m miserable.
The result is that I seldom eat at meal times. I eat what I crave when I crave it. I remember one of my mother’s very good friends visiting from the Cape and my mom asking her (as ladies do) how she kept so fit and slim. She said she ate whatever she felt like eating, whenever she felt like it - even a slice of chocolate cake at 08h00. Clearly, even at a young age, she made an impression as I remember thinking “That is my kind of diet!”
As the end of a busy dinner service nears, I start getting super excited about the hot dog waiting for me at home. Recently to his amused the rest of the kitchen team who couldn’t believe that a hot dog could produce so much enthusiasm. This triggered off a conversation about what topped everyone’s cravings list, and I realised I was not a freak of nature when items like peppermint crisp bars, Oreos and milk, choc-chip cookies with soft serve, sushi, pizza, spaghetti bolognaise and burgers and chips were bandied about.
But while it’s clear that most people have regular cravings, they seem to lean towards junk food, while my hankerings tend to be for something that I’m certain my body needs in some sort of physical or emotional way. So until someone proves me wrong, I’m going to continue to satisfy my food cravings and eat for pleasure and enjoyment - that’s my kind of diet.
Extract from Chef! Magazine