Guest blog: Meredith Whitely – One bite at a time…Part 2
Last week the wonderful Meredith of Food at Heart let us all in on her perspective on finding total eating bliss – go check out part 1 if you missed it and then pop back here! This week I’m thrilled to have Meredith back for the second instalment of this feature, in which she shares some really key advice for getting started on your taste journey.
My tips to help you start your own taste exploration
Take it one step at a time
Start by identifying a few things you already love and use this as the basis for adding in something similar – to expand the variety of what you eat.
If you know you already like potatoes, sweet potatoes are a great next step – and then maybe squash or pumpkin or carrots. You then might want to start trying a new colour, perhaps adding in a handful of green baby spinach leaves, a little rocket or a scattering of peas. If you eat meat and seafood, add these new foods alongside what you’re eating and gradually up the proportion of vegetables you have on your plate.
You then might find you’re open to exploring new whole grains, like couscous, quinoa or brown basmati rice. All of these add texture and substance to dishes. If you’re not sure how to cook them, the instructions on the packet tend to be pretty clear – or you could even start by trying some pre-cooked versions. Just take your time and be a little open to what you might actually enjoy.
Explore a few techniques
It can get boring if you’re eating the same thing day in day out, so knowing a few different preparation techniques is another good way to get comfortable exploring something new.
Let’s go back to the example of trying sweet potato; you might start with peeling and gently boiling them to make mash, with a splodge of organic butter and a good seasoning of sea salt and pepper. Next, you could try the sweet potatoes steamed or roasted. Or maybe slice them thinly into sticks and stir-fry. They’re actually also pretty delicious sliced raw and thrown through a salad. And that’s just one vegetable!
My main tip when it comes to vegetables specifically is not to over-cook them as that’s when you lose flavour. Google is your friend when it comes to exploring options and, if all else fails, the BBC Good Food website is another great place to start. If you have some chopping boards, a couple of half decent knives and a vegetable peeler, you’ll be surprised at just how much you can create.
Herbs, spices and healthy fats are your flavour friends!
Speaking again of flavour, getting a few basic flavourings and oils in your cupboard is essential to making ingredients taste great. This is what can take vegetables from bland to brilliant.
Some of my flavour basics are: sea salt, black pepper, dried oregano (or any good Italian herb mix), chilli flakes and something with a hint of India (curry powder, coriander, cumin or garam masala). With just these alone you get can start upping your flavour game. Yes, I do have a stash of some less common things, like sumac, but if you’re starting out, keep things simple and then get more experimental as you get more confident.
Healthy fats are also great flavour carriers. My go-to is extra virgin olive oil, which I use for gentle frying and generally drizzling over anything and everything. Butter, rapeseed oil and unrefined coconut oil are also other options.
Keep trying and tasting
Don’t give up! It takes a little time to learn how to taste. It often takes children at least 10 tastes of a food (and sometimes more!) to learn to recognise if they genuinely like something or not – or to at least get used to a food. As adults, we’re really not so different; if you’re used to eating lots of processed or very bland foods, switching to whole foods might take a little while to learn to enjoy. I didn’t like olives until I was in my twenties, and bitter salad leaves until I was in my thirties, and now I love them.
If you build things up gradually you’ll get accustomed to expanding your range, as well as recognising ingredients and tastes you enjoy. It’s okay not to like everything of course, but it is great for your palate and your body to have lots of variety and colour.
If you can, ideally eat with the seasons, as in-season ingredients taste so much better and they’re cheaper. Check out the Eat The Seasons site if you’re not sure what’s in season right now. (And if you’d like to know more about how we learn to eat, I highly recommend Bee Wilson’s book, First Bite.)
Slow down a little
Lastly, take some time to enjoy your food. When you rush through meals, you don’t really taste your food properly. A big part of the pleasure of eating comes from the taste. Try putting down your cutlery between mouthfuls and not picking them up again until you’ve finished what’s in your mouth, rather than shovelling everything in at once.
You’ll hopefully start to discover new layers of flavour in the food you’re eating. My personal experience is that I taste so much more in food by doing this and it has given me a much better sense of what flavours, textures and aromas go together.
And don’t forget to have fun trying, tasting and making delicious food. You need to eat every day so it really should be something you enjoy.
Just as a final note, it probably almost goes without saying that if you have specific medical dietary requirements or issues, you should seek the advice of a qualified medical professional, particularly if you’re thinking about making any drastic dietary changes.
Thank you so much Meredith for sharing your food wisdom, it’s been wonderful to have you on the blog and I’m extra excited for dinner now as I reckon I could do a bit more experimenting myself!
Have you been inspired to try any new foods or to take a new approach to eating after reading Meredith’s post? We’d love to hear about it x