Nigel Slater serves up inspiration for simple living

Nigel Slater’s pancetta, cream and leafy greens recipe

I love food but  I’m not much into cooking. Over the years, food writer and cook Nigel Slater has not just deepened my interest in fresh, simple and declious food, but also in their selection, preparation  and appreciation. Initially, I thought it was simply due to how Nigel writes about food; like writing in a journal, or chatting to an old friend, and how he presents them so honestly and beautifully. The vibes of comfort and scrumptiousness seem to emanate naturally from his words and images of food.

While reading the introduction to Nigel’s latest book ‘The Kitchen Diaries III’, it struck me that his words not just resonated with me simply because I love his writing style or his philosophy on food and cooking, but the content can just as easily be applied to minimalism, simple living and mindfulness.

We are not here for long. So lets at least make ourselves something good to eat.

Nigel says that we should enjoy not just the end result, but the hands on craft along the way, the act of making a meal. It’s about the small, joyous details of cooking that have made it a life long pleasure for him. Similarly, our minimalism-based life is a journey- not merely a destination. We should enjoy the nuggets of joy, discoveries,  achievement, doubts and obstacles that line our experience of crafting and living a simpler life.

Cooking doesn’t stand still, at least not for anyone with spirit, an appetite and a continuing sense of wonder. Spot on Nigel! Similarly, our minimalist journey and lifestyle is not so much a destination as a process; adapting and keeping up with our changing needs and life situations. What gives us value and joy today might not do so in the future. What works for us as a single person might not do as well when we have a family.  We need minimalism to work for us- not the other way round. To ensure that, we need to be open to and hungry for new learnings , beliefs and behaviours, and to adapt and change accordingly. Only then can we grow as individuals.

Sometimes in the process of living simply and making things simple, we end up with the opposite result.  We might fall into the trap that becoming a minimalist is a ritualistic and complex exercise involving much thought and sacrifice. That we need to meet a certain criteria or benchmark in order to qualify as minimalists. As a result instead of truly enjoying our lighter and freer state, we get caught up with counting the pennies and the number of items we own. I’m not saying that keeping an eye on expenses or the number of possessions is bad; but that minimalism and simple living is more than that. Nigel calls it the ‘grace of understatement’. Both good food and love of cooking is just part and parcel of everyday life. It is thoughtful, considered, always delicious, something to be quietly enjoyed and rather then venerated. There is too much pressure for us to ‘perform’, to reach for perfection, instead of simply treating the art of making something to eat as the lifelong joy it should be. Similarly, living simply should be a joy, not a deprivation, and certainly not a stressful burden of trying to be perfect all the time.

Nigel rightly states that we need to adopt a healthy attitude to eating without victimising food. There seems to be an apparent need to divide the contents of our plate into heroes and villians (sugar, gluten etc.). This relates to one of the key attractions of a minimalist lifestyle: it is tailored to our own individual needs- there is mostly no right or wrong. One person’s treasured set of collectibles is another person’s clutter.

Another healthy attitude to eating, according to Nigel, is not to eat too much of any one thing. That certainly strikes a chord with me as I find that moderation is one of the most underrated virtues. The basis for minimalism is to have ‘just enough’ for our needs and lifestyle, the rest is excess and non-essential. Too little and we end up still hungry, too much and we suffer from indigestion. The same applies to our possessions and other stuff that keeps us from living the life we are meant to live.

With minimalism as with much else in life, we mustn’t be afraid to think in new ways, do things differently or experience the unfamiliar. As Nigel writes, we have our favourites when it comes to food, but it’ll be foolish not to try something new. So be open-minded, be curious and don’t be afriad to push borders, That’s how we grow and keep things fresh and interesting. Life is, after all, an adventure isn’t it?





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