Of tiny cooks, marauding snails and family jokes.
Now, you might be wondering - who calls herself an intuitive cook? Fair question, though it's one I tend to shy away from - as an introvert I really don't feel comfortable being 'on stage'. In fact in my previous life as a concert producer I was very much a back stage person so it feels quite odd to be stepping out with my own ideas.
What are my cooking credentials, then? Ermm... none. Except that I have been fascinated by food and by cooking for as long as I can remember. The beginnings may be a bit hazy but I have a few clear memories from my early encounters in the kitchen:
As toddlers, me and my brother were looked after by a lady who lived in the basement of our Athens apartment block (both my parents worked full time) and we spent quite a bit of time in her kitchen. I remember walking in one day to find snails crawling all over the walls. Literally! She had bought the snails to cook later and had left them 'waiting' in a pot from where they staged a mass escape! The image is etched into my memory - and I can't have been older than 4.
My first clear memory of actual cooking is a three course meal I made for my family - aged 9 and all by myself (actually, my 6 year old brother did help me).
The other vivid memory I have from that age, is when I almost gave my granny a heart attack when I licked my plate clean in full public view at the posh hotel restaurant they stayed at every summer. Do you get the picture?
I don't remember being taught how to cook so I must have just soaked it up from my environment. Growing up in Greece in the 70s, home-cooked food was simply normal, and even tavernas (the simple eateries you'd find everywhere) were more like home kitchens - it was actually customary to walk into the kitchen and look into the pots to choose what you wanted! By the way, my dad is Greek and my mum is German; another lucky coincidence that meant I grew up multi-cultural and multi-lingual. So the concept of borrowing from different cuisines and mixing up everything - from ingredients in the same pot to languages in the same sentence - came practically built in.
Cooking - and eating - at home was a big part of growing up. On weekdays, meals were very simple: soups, omelettes, peas and rice and things like that, whatever my working mum could rustle up in between. But she had a knack for throwing in a bit of this and a bit of that and it always tasted exciting. On weekends, making food was always the most fun part, and there was a lot of it: There was shopping at the farmers' market, drooling over recipes, grinding of spices, and animated conversation at the dinner table. There were also occasional long lunches at tavernas trying to guess the ingredients of the most intriguing dish. Somehow, opening a family restaurant 'one day' became our insider joke - it still is. And almost 50 years later we still come together as a family around our shared interest (and enjoyment!) of food.
I don't know where, but somewhere in all that I honed my cooking intuition. There should be no doubt: you can't develop (or uncover) intuition by reading about it. You have to touch it, chop it, taste it, live it, embody it, and let the practice and knowledge sink from the head to the heart - and to the belly.
But you don't have to get started as a toddler (although it helps, young parents take notice!) You can start today. Embrace cooking - and eating - as the joyful adventure it is, and the rest will come.