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ON COOKING: Bust out the good china and glasses

Chef Dez offers ideas to enhance meals, even for those who live alone
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By Chef Dez/Special to Black Press Media

Throughout the years involved in the culinary industry, I have encountered many people who have either become bored of cooking, or don’t think the result is worth the effort. Everything is perception; appreciation through levels of awareness… including your eating experience.

Let’s face it, chances are you have a kitchen at home, you probably eat food everyday to stay alive, and unless you win it big in the lotto, you are going to have to prepare that food the rest of your life. Hold on, I am not trying to bring you down here; this is just a reality check. Let’s look at this as an opportunity instead: because you are faced with this situation anyway, and it’s not going away – let’s make it better… or, in other words, more enjoyable.

Recently, I made a special dinner for the family. The meal itself was not only graciously prepared, but I also made sure the table setting was top-notch: tablecloth, fine china, crystal glasses, the works.

But why? Solely to enhance the eating experience by making it more pleasurable and memorable. Now although I went over the top in this instance, every meal, of every day, can be enhanced somewhat if you want it to. It is my goal here to give you some small, easy suggestions to do just that.

• Cloth napkins: Ditch the paper and go with cloth napkins. The look and the soft texture of cotton cloth will make every wipe of the mouth/hands more luxurious. This doesn’t have to be an expensive option – good quality napkins can be found at thrift stores and easily washed. Overall cloth napkins are better for the environment too.

•Candles: One can easily purchase an affordable box of candles from a department/discount store and while you’re at the thrift store look for a simple (multiple or single) candle holder. A quick flick of a lighter or match, and every eating experience will seem more intimate and special.

• Wine glasses or fancy glasses: Don’t save these for special occasions only. Life is meant to be enjoyed and they are meant to be used. Otherwise, why do you have them?

• Pottery: We love eating from pottery plates and bowls. We call these pieces of dishware “functional art”. We can appreciate the artistic talents that went into making such pieces, but they are of great function at the same time. Just purchase a piece or two at a time and don’t worry about them matching overall. There’s something very rustic of a table setting with an assortment of beautiful pottery glaze colours.

• Garnish: Far too often we forget about finishing touches on our meals. This does not have to be elaborate. By definition “a garnish” is something that compliments the meal in flavour (tastes appropriate with what’s being served), but contrasts with colour (so it stands out). For example: a handful of fresh blueberries on a bowl of cereal, a splash of chopped fresh parsley on a plate of spaghetti, a sprig of fresh mint on a dish of cake & ice cream, etc. Use your imagination.

• Eat with finesse: A very simple enhancement to any meal and requires purchasing nothing, is simply putting down your utensils in between each bite. This helps to slow you down, and to take the time to focus on, and really enjoy, the tastes and textures in your mouth. Another great habit involving utensils is to learn how to twirl long pasta with a fork and spoon, instead of cutting it. Long pasta is supposed to be enjoyed long, not cut up into little pieces, so have fun with it.

• Surroundings: Try to dine at a table more often than in on a couch in front of the TV. If being a couch potato eater is a habit, this may take some effort to break. Make sure the table you eat at is not, or in an environment that is, cluttered. Keep this area tidy to be respectful of your eating time spent there. Lighting and music in this area will also enhance this experience and make each meal more special.

Be respectful to yourself and your family members who dine with you on a regular basis by using these ideas. If you enjoy the finished result more, then the process of getting there (the cooking) will automatically feel more worthwhile, too. Even if you live and dine alone, don’t deny yourself of these little pleasures – you are worth it.

Until next time… happy cooking!


– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at Send questions to or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4


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