No fancy dish plating. No complicated and complex flavour profiles. Home-cooked food, as we know and love, is usually wholesome with ingredients presented in their most rustic form, either sliced or diced.
While eating out does expose diners to an array of international cuisines, the one we’re most familiar and comfortable with has definitely got to be food whipped up by our family’s culinary chief since we grew up relishing them on the dining table. And there’s nothing quite like them.
Every family or household has their own unique recipe that isn’t easily replicated, even if it’s the same conventional dish. Take the humble fried rice, for example. One version could be simply rice and eggs, and another is a generous serving that includes cured meat or shrimp in addition to the core elements of it. Seasoning varies too. But both are still prepared in an orthodox manner.
Choosing these simple yet modest home-cooked dishes over superior and elaborate renditions at restaurants has its benefits. When armed with a spatula and wok at the stove, you’re responsible for whatever’s going to be consumed. Nobody is foolish enough to produce an inedible meal. Unless you’re terrible at instructions.
A study in Health Psychology, titled ‘Does self-prepared food taste better? Effects of food preparation on liking’, documented participants tasting either a self-prepared low-calorie raspberry milkshake or an identical ready-made milkshake, done by the experimenter in secret. The result? They were more likely to enjoy the milkshake they had made themselves, despite the latter followed an identical recipe too. This total control in the kitchen can also result in healthier meals. Salt and fat are maintained to one’s taste desire, hopefully in moderation.
Then there are moments when we crave for home-cooked dishes. Even though ready-made options save time, an intangible ingredient is lacking. Thus, food memories come into play. Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, reveals that “food memories feel so nostalgic because there’s all this context of when you were preparing or eating this food, so the food becomes almost symbolic of other meaning”.
Now you know another effective method to take a trip down memory lane besides browsing photographs. To achieve that, however, requires precise recipe execution.