Cooking has saved and changed my life this past year. Here’s how it happened

By Massimo Usai

When the first lockdown kicks out last March in Italy, I had a kind of feeling, was it ready to come to Warsaw, where I was living at the time.

So, I went to the supermarket, and I bought so many ingredients that I didn’t have clear idea on how to use it.

I want just to be sure I had enough food to survive, nothing else.

Weird, I owned a restaurant for almost 20 years, but I never learn to cook properly.

I was too busy doing things to run it and then I didn’t have time left to learn how to cook.

I was lucky to have so many great chefs, so I was always watching them how they cook, and everything was and still in my memory, but I didn’t practice at all before last March.

So last Spring I went to the supermarket, and I bought “things”.

In just a few days, I discovered that I have missed something in my life. 

Too much reliable to other people and too much busy with paperwork at my business to learn something different.

 I start to regret what I have missed very quickly.

It was passed just a few weeks from the first bread and cake that I did, that I start to feel the time spent cooking, either for two hours for a single dish, was my way to journey inside a tough time for the human race and for myself. 

That time I’m spending cooking is now filled with personal challenges, failures, growth, success. 

And I love it.

You stand on the kitchen table, and you feel as a stoic chevalier, facing down your own internal ghouls

Skill, audacity, and attitude will win the day. This is what you repeat to yourself.

You cook for two hours, and you eat in 10 minutes.

It’s a typical complaint you hear so many times. Still, contrary to so many opinions, I discovered and appreciate that it is time well spent. 

The short time to eating what you have to cook for two hours, it’s worth it?

That’s just part of the journey, and you need maybe to see that is wrong just spend 10 min to eat. 

You need to learn how to understand and appreciate how important is it to stay longer on the table.

Thank my application in the kitchen by the end of May. I start to appreciate a new life, a unique experience.

Now I love to spend an hour in a grocery store like I use to do in a record or book shop. 

Going to a speciality shop to get 1gr or 3 lit of expensive random ingredients that I don’t know how to use is exciting. I will probably use it just once and after I never use it again, but it is still a lovely experience.

So, do like I do: Cook for hours, put a soundtrack (the right one, of course) on your Hi-Fi, or listen to an audiobook or a podcast.

As usual, part of the journey to be a chef is to make it wrong and learn from it. 

Usually, this is when I call my mum for suggestions and challenge her to dig inside her memory to try to make me the “perfect dish“.

I discovered recently that she usually always forgot one ingredient or one passage. It’s because she competing with me or because she really forgot?

Yes, isn’t a stereotype, like it’s for all Italians, our mum is the best chef globally, and everything we eat is comparting what our mum does. 

Italians are really like that.

I don’t remember one Italian who comes to eat in my restaurant and didn’t observe our food. Usually that generally sound like that: “Wow, very good, very close to the dishes my mum use to do it..”. 

So, for every Italian, whatever you eat, will always be just “close to what your mum cook for you”.

Of course, there is a part I don’t like it too much in my time spent in the kitchen. 

Anyway, I learn it’s part of the journey, to complete the experience of the cook.

For example, I don’t like to eat in 10 min what I prepare, so I change the attitude in 30 min either if the dish needs just 10 min to eat.

I eat slowly to celebrate what I did and savour the meal. 

Commonly done in France and Italy, I lost a bit this experience in my last 20 years in the United Kingdom, either if I must admit they improve so much the way to eat during the previous two decades.

I make small portions on my plate, and I eat slow. So I serve myself again, and if I reduce my serving size, I will do another time. To eat those portions, I need ten min that multiplicate for 3 and make the perfect 30 minutes.  

After there are the Dishes to be done. I didn’t like before, but now I used that time to finish listening to the podcast I started before lunch.

Disturbing is also the veggies I didn’t use because they all come in different proportions. After all, this is the way markets are selling to you, and they rot in the fridge. 

I hate to put food in the rubbish, and when I need to do it, I feel guilty so much.

I’m trying to learn how to be more accurate in my shopping list, which is my challenge right now.

So I enjoy the cooking, listening to books/music/podcasts while I do all the things with a smile, and taking pride in what I’m doing.

And I enjoy so much share my final dish, enjoy and discuss it, take a compliment. 

I feel proud inside of me when someone else really appreciates my way to cook. So, either if I spend two hours inside a small kitchen on my own, an excellent final dish honours me.

Start to learn to cook and eat slower, help me pass this time in the right way—the speed of everything that I discovered feel natural in my soul.

Chewing more and having a drink with it stretches my meal out in an excellent way to celebrate my new life and recent times.

No joke the best decision I’ve taken it in these strange times.

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