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LOVE - the secret ingredient - really?

"spread love through cooking" Mary Frances

This was going to be purely about a website - in my foodie website/blog occasional series. It's name is LOVE - the secret ingredient. I actually started looking at it a week or so ago, but didn't feel inclined in the end. However, yesterday I made 12 jars of marmalade from Seville oranges ordered from Kingfisher Citrus up near the Murray, and collected from their stall in Eltham farmer's market. They were beautiful oranges, so juicy. More await and I have to pick up more this weekend. Love is involved.

I shall be making marmalade on and off for the next week or so. It is truly a labour of love, because frankly I don't like marmalade much, although it's occasional use in a recipe or two is rather delicious. I know I've told you all this before, but I began making it very early on in our marriage, because David loves marmalade, and I, the lovelorn wife wanted to please. And so it began. Alas it was too good and I have to make it every year since. So I guess love must still be involved - otherwise why would I do it?

The LOVE website is American of course. Who else would go so overboard with the corny clichés? Even if deep down we might like them - as I did with that long quote about the creative life that I posted the other day. I think that was American too. America is just so over the top isn't it? In just about every way - from their love of guns through to their love of religion. And the corny clichés about love, and the universe are completely of a piece with American culture. The thing that I find so creepy is that hand in hand with all the wonderfully good things about America - and I don't mean in a commercial/technological/power sense - no I mean the sheer innovative drive, and the overwhelming hospitality that you will find there - hand in hand with that go all the truly dreadful things about the country - starting with the guns. But that's not really what I'm here to talk about.

Love as the secret ingredient though? Of course cooking is an expression of love - if only for yourself. If you are alone, and you do have to feed yourself, perhaps what you choose to cook is the ultimate expression of how much you love yourself. And we should love ourselves - I suspect I don't love myself enough - because I suspect I would be tempted to fall into a trap of cooking scrambled eggs on toast every night. If you love yourself you would cook something to keep you healthy, and also something to delight. It's much easier to do that for others somehow. However, however much you love cooking - and I do - well almost always anyway - and however much you love the people you are cooking for it hardly means that the food will inevitably be better for all that love. Even good cooks make mistakes. Even good cooks occasionally burn things.

"When you cook with LOVE, even if you make mistakes, the food just tastes better. It’s rather magical!" Mary Frances

Really? Burnt is burnt surely? You might forgive and you might laugh about it, or maybe it was so bad that a funny story to be repeated over and over again comes into being, but the food won't taste any better for it.

I really couldn't say that everything I cook for David tastes better because I cooked it for David. We have had disasters. No - the only way love comes into the actual preparation of the food is in my choice of what I cook - no chillies, no anchovies, no coconut, etc. By leaving them out I suppose I am expressing love but I'm not necessarily making the food taste better - not for me anyway. I like all those things, so a tiny bit of resentment creeps in - which is hardly love.

But back to the LOVE website. It has 32K+ followers. It's a commercial venture - well Mary Frances - the author - is a successful businesswoman, being the owner of a very successful design, branding and marketing company called PM+CO. Mind you I simply cannot find this company on the net. Which is a bit weird. She began the blog back in September 2011, inspired by this letter from her son.

She grew up in St. Louis but lived in New York and New York suburbs in New Jersey I think. I also think she now lives in upstate New York at this rather grand looking property which features on her Facebook page. Of course she has one of them - and Instagram too. She sells stuff like aprons, and has a subscription service for a hamper of gourmet goodies accompanied by recipes for how to use them. To be fair to this particular commercial venture though, a share of the profits goes to Feed the Children. I don't know whether Mary Frances is her full name or just two Christian names.

The subtitle of the site is:

"Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious, healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!"

And it is true that some of the posts are more like my random ramblings than just a recipe. Her latest post on the website, for example is about eating Italian in Tuscany. It looks as if she has been having a prolonged holiday there. No recipes involved just the story of lunch with friends - filled with love of course.

She does have recipes though - not amazingly different on the whole but very tasty looking. The most recent one is a bit more unusual - Curried roast chicken with grapefruit, honey and thyme - well honey, thyme and grapefruit in a curry recipe is anyway. More a middle-eastern kind of vibe surely? I'd have a go because it does look good, but for that damned grapefruit - statins - can't eat grapefruit.

I think Mary posts every month, not more frequently than that, although there are more frequent, but much shorter posts on her Facebook page - no recipes just a picture and a few words.

All in all it's a cut above the thousands of American websites that just post a recipe and are covered in ads. I guess she makes the website pay through her sales of aprons and gourmet goodies - there don't appear to be any ads anywhere, which is a real relief, although, given that she seems to actually have another 'real' business, she may just see this as a hobby. It's a nice clean presentation and good looking food, and quite an interesting read. Just so darned American with all that stuff about LOVE.

"The key is to cook often and pour lots of love into your creations. LOVE – the secret ingredient will do the rest, by providing the recipes, shortcuts and tips any home cook needs to make delicious food. Who doesn’t want to make great food that brings people together, to share time, share experiences and share love?" Mary Frances

Well yes that is certainly true, but possibly a bit overstated. Or is that my English reserve?

Tonight I am going to try Madhur Jaffrey's recipe for Moghlai lamb with spinach (Paalag Gosht) from The Ultimate Curry Bible for dinner. I suppose I could say I am doing it for love. David's favourite meat is lamb, he loves curry and he loves spinach. But really I think I'm just sucked in by the photograph and I feel like trying something new. Well theoretically I aim to make something new every week. Not that this is new really. I have certainly made spinach and lamb curry before - although mostly I cheat and make it with beef. The spinach will be frozen however. I was determined to buy real spinach at the supermarket - never mind the cost. That must be love, except for the fact that David is frugal, if not even miserly, so I'm not sure it would not please him to have me spend exorbitant amounts on 'real' spinach. However there was none, other than the baby spinach you buy for salads. I did buy a packet of that, but there really isn't enough in the packet. So he can have it for salad. That's love - because he loves spinach in salad. I don't that much.


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