A long time ago I decided that guilt is the most destructive of feelings, and (somewhat  blithely since I now know that sometimes things can be more complicated than a simple cognition) made a private promise to myself that I will not ever let guilt rule or direct or cause suffering in my life:  if I knew that I was going to venture into something which may cause severe guilt, I would either decide against it or consciously live it…

This decision has stood me in good stead over years, particularly when it came to food and eating…  and some of the other sensual pleasures we happily are heir to as humans….

So when I saw the kilojoule count of the latest Taste magazine’s cover recipe, I did not bat an eyelid, but knew for certain that this was the dish that I was going to make for my lover when next he visits…. In some circles and with previous people (read men) in my life I could not have made this dish: ”too rich, ugh, lamb is too fatty” would have been the cry. Not this man. Though he is conscious of eating mostly healthily and in a balanced way, he loves food, and eating, and mercifully all the other sensual pleasures too…

The pleasure for me already starts when I read a new recipe: the back copies of Taste, the bookshelves with cookbooks attest to that……and then the ritual of writing out a shopping list. Yesterday the list read:

Lamb shanks

Fresh ginger

Leeks

Pumpkin

Sparkling wine

All the other ingredients were already in my larder, and on my wine rack. I had bought fresh roses earlier in the week, and had lately started buying plain white candles by the boxful( Shabbat candles which last night probably connected me to millions of Jewish women as I lit them waiting for my secular Jewish boyfriend) else those too would have been on my list…

But back to the pleasure principle as enacted by the rituals around cooking for me..

Recipe, shopping list, shopping: I have almost on the same route a butcher, a baker, a fishmonger, a flower shop, a veggie shop… and always, a Woolworths store close by…

Then coming home, dumping parcels on the kitchen counter, kicking off my heels, switching on the  kettle for a cup of tea, checking the time frame, getting the mise en place done: the peeling, chopping, rinsing, trimming, or whatever else it requires..

Yesterday I got home later than usual, from a private practice where I work as real life shrink (not just the kitchen variety), almost panicking about time… I took one look at the lamb shanks unwrapped from the brown butchers paper and realised that they will take more than the hour of cooking time the recipe predicts, and got that on immediately…the kitchen soon redolent with the leeks and shallots and garlic softening in olive oil, and then the flavour of the meat caramalising sweetly as it browned in the same pot…

The pumpkin presented a different challenge: I bought half a beautiful sage green husked varietal with dark orange flesh: but then I could not cut it into thin slices, but rather hunks along its natural segmented shape… I did sharpen my sturdiest knife, but still found it hard, grinning through very unladylike grunts, remembering how my grandfather always used to cut up the white boerpampoen for my grannie when she was preparing a similar meal: lamb stew and sweet pumpkin. No ginger and cardamom for the pumpkin (but sugar and cinnamon), and certainly no garlic for the stew(but onions and potatoes)…amazed again how almost everything I cook is linked to some childhood memory…

But being an adult now I poured myself a glass full of the wine which I’d added to the lamb, glad that I don’t always use cooking wine for cooking, but a goodish very drinkable one plucked from a very modest selection of wines in a little wine rack on a kitchen shelf next to my fridge..

I had the wine while having a candlelit bath, music that I love in the background, the apartment humming with the promise of a night of pleasure..

I had to speed up the cooking of the pumpkin by adding water to the roasting tin, and covering it in foil, roasting it under the grill for the last 10 minutes and eventually tipping the delicious pan juices into it as I mashed it…

And sitting down at last with a beloved man at a white damask tableclothed (from that same gran of the white boerpampoen) table, sipping celebratory sparkling wine, tasting the meltingly tender lamb smothered in leek as soft as marrow, the ginger and cardamom pumpkin a perfect accompaniment, I felt only deep pleasure: not a trace of guilt…

                                                                                    

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