Food is Emotion
Portrait by Sabrina Sikora Photography
Many of my best childhood memories are related to food and their flavours and fragrances. These would include the typical dishes I would eat at Christmas; the cake my mum used to bake on Sundays; or the homemade breads made by my dad.
After many years of living abroad, those smells and tastes are still fresh in my memory. They can make me homesick, but also help to inspire me in my creations.
A typical ingredient that I absolutely adore, and is used a lot in Dutch sweets, is cinnamon. Growing up, we would have cinnamon flavoured candy canes at the village fair, eat cinnamon in our rice pudding and on top of pancakes. We would mainly use it in the quintessential Dutch apple pie, which is still my absolute favourite cake. You could not make me any happier then with a freshly-baked piece of apple pie, crispy on the outside with a succulent warm filling of apples, raisins and, of course, cinnamon.
Regular guests to my previous restaurants may have noticed over the years that there have been quite a few desserts with cinnamon, combined with all sorts of different kinds of fruit and chocolate.
Growing up in the countryside in the south of the Netherlands, my parents and granddad always grew their own vegetables, fruits and herbs. We even had our own beehives for honey production, which my dad took all over the country to help farmers pollinate their produce and for us to have different flavours of honey. Jam and marmalade were never from the supermarket, but homemade and jarred to tide us over until the next crop of fruit. The same was done with the vegetables and with the apples and pears: apple compote and stewed pears (with, of course, cinnamon).
After we moved to the farm, an old family property where my grandma was born, we had to go back to basics without hot water in the kitchen and a outside toilet in the back of the stables. Arriving there in the middle of a cold winter was not an easy task for the whole family. That is, until spring and summer arrived and you could walk into the garden, pick fresh fruits and vegetables and decide only late in the afternoon what you would pick to cook for dinner. This, along with being able to ride our horses and being outdoors all the time, made us realise how lucky we were.
My passion for food was almost certainly established at a young age from tasting such pure produce. Since I was eleven years old, I knew I wanted to become a chef.I talked for such a long time about cooking and wanting to be a chef that my parents took me to visit a secondary school that offered culinary classes from an early age.
At the school, the smell of gingerbread (again cinnamon related!) made me decide on the spot I would become a pastry chef despite my first baking experience being a huge disaster: my sisters and I had mistaken the salt for the sugar bottle.
However, I have come a long way since that sugar and salt mix up. I have worked in different countries and continents and my passion for pastry grows bigger every single day. There is still so much to explore and to learn which is the beauty about this profession.
Not only do I think that tasting food is emotion but the creation of food is equally or perhaps even bigger emotionally. There are decisions around flavour combinations to be made, and the emotions that certain flavours give you while tasting will influence the dessert’s textures and design.
I get overexcited while creating something new, yet it can seriously affect my mood if I can't get it right. When my mind is set on a beautiful yet even tastier dessert I will only be satisfied when the dessert is as good or even better than my imagination.
Dutch-born Marike van Beurden is the former pastry chef of Caprice at Four Seasons Hong Kong. She continues to be based in Hong Kong, fulfilling her passion creating delicious yet beautiful pieces of culinary art. Read more about Marike
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