In this weather you might be expecting to read about beans, root vegetables and the hearty properties of unrefined grains such as spelt and barley. In an ordinary food column I would wax lyrical on the medicinal properties of fresh ginger, and relay to you how a few chunky slices of this gnarly root, added to hot tea, toddies, and soups can help thaw even the iciest of cockles.
But as the culinary world's first agony aunt, I am not here to simply extol the virtues of flageolets and cassoulet; but to also offer readers advice, guidance and practical tips on the different flavours life can take on, both in and out of the kitchen.
Whilst we nourish our bodies daily, we often forget feed our essence and sometimes although our bodies feel satiated our hearts and souls can be left hungry. It has taken years to recognise that we are what we eat, and like food, emotions can now be linked directly to our wellbeing. Both can nourish and damage depending on the recipe and in extreme cases can end up eating you. Remember Gilbert Grape?
My wish is that this light-hearted column will pioneer the sharing of flavours, feelings and recipes. Together I hope we can map the undeniable link between the taste of our lives and the food we eat, let's compile a delicious, cross cultural and diverse collection of food for thought and recipes for life.
If you are already familiar with my work let's bite the bullet, for the uninitiated or more cautious, I hope you will be tempted to suck it and see...
It was 11pm local time and I had just landed in the US where I had travelled alone for work. The last time I had been there, I had attended a transformational women's workshop where we were taught to check in with our 'core' feelings at least once a day, and that is exactly what I was doing as I stood in the queue to clear immigration.
No sooner had I recognised that I was feeling loved, a little nervous, totally exhausted but happy, I felt my ears begin to prickle. Suddenly the white noise of my surroundings began to fade, and seconds later I awoke to find myself sitting in the wheelchair behind me.
As I came to, my confusion was compounded by the fact that my fall had clearly displaced the chair's former occupant, who was now standing gingerly amidst the unfamiliar sea of faces firing random medical questions at me, "Was I diabetic?" "Did I have any known illnesses", and finally, "Was I pregnant?"
"Was I carrying anything I had not packed?" Surely not a baby.
Feeling out of control (hate that), embarrassed and strangely guilty about the wheelchair, I now understood why Gillian McKeith had done it on the telly. Talk about I'm a c word get me out of here, I have never in my life moved through an airport faster, speeding through customs, baggage reclaim and into a taxi at breakneck speed. In less than an hour from touch down I was tucked up in my hotel bed drinking complimentary tea.
I awoke the next morning looking somewhat pneumatic but feeling fine. It was only later that I discovered I was teetering on the brink of a 'chemical' pregnancy. The term means not pregnant enough for a celebration, but chemical enough to rekindle those crazy hormones. Before I had a chance get a grip, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a clawing pain as I felt myself gradually deflate on all fronts.
With two increasingly independent tweens, a new marriage and a new business, I honestly believed I had moved on from being broody. I was sure that at my stage in the game I had replaced that smelly selflessness with a little self-indulgence. Yet here I was sitting on the edge of a hotel bed in Chicago wistfully thinking up names, day-dreaming about the joys of babies.
It was only as I searched frantically for my £25 box of guilt-free, duty-free chocolates did the unpalatable sense of loss dawn on me; not only had the unexpected chaos of the night before stolen my chocolates, it had also taken our baby.
Determined to protect the hearts of those I love, I vowed to keep the whole incident in perspective, and got busy with business as usual. With that in mind I made an appointment to try Botox the Saturday after I got home. My cool exterior had worked with friends and family, but inside I still felt alarmingly bonkers and quicker than you could say the word rusk, I found myself spilling the beans to London's Lip Queen.
"I only want a little squirt because I am going to try for a baby soon." No sooner had the words left my mouth that I realised I had sealed my own fate. Baby and Botox, two words rarely heard in the same sentence and here I was feeling like a right oxymoron. What I was doing?
As the taste of mixed feelings filled my mouth, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted skin as smooth as a baby's bottom. The question was, where did I want it? Was it to cover the hidden bitterness in my face? Or was it to lie sweetly in my arms?
"Please don't tell me you are deciding between a baby or Botox?" I had actually got the Lip Queen's jaw to drop.
Of course I wasn't, I was just checking in with my core feelings, and right then I was feeling resentful about my ever fading youth, insecure about my life, and very sad that I was no longer pregnant.
My moment had most definitely passed and as I was offered a hug in lieu of Botox, I stepped out onto the pavement, clocking that I was probably the only person ever to leave that building looking older than when they had gone in.
Later that afternoon we took the children to see Harry Potter and then on to Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park Corner. It was a truly special evening and as I walked hand in hand with the family I love, through the stalls of carved decorations and deliciousness, I could literally taste the magic of real happiness, inner peace and immense gratitude crystallising on my tongue. And as we ate the best cheese toastie I have ever had in my life and gulped mulled wine to keep warm, I knew what I was going to ask Santa to slip into my stockings this Christmas.
Watching the snow settle on the gingerbread roofs of wonderland, I could feel my mixed feelings and hormones settle in my heart. As I wiped those last chilly tears under the twinkling lights of the ferris wheel, I conjured a practical plan to replace fillers with folic acid; secure in the knowledge that either way there will be smooth skin by next Christmas. I will leave where it lands to the storks, either way I know I will be grateful.
Today was my first column here at MyDaily so I shared a taste of my life, I would love a taste of yours. Please send cooking conundrums and domestic dilemmas of any kind to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is my recipe for a heart-warming and soul-uplifting chocolate mulled wine, perfect for those moments when all you need is a hug inside.
Chocolate Mulled Wine
1 bottle red wine (750ml)
1 cinnamon stick
140g Venezuelan Black, 100% pure cacao – I used Willie's Supreme Cacao
1 tsp ground allspice
5 whole cloves
3 tbsp soft brown sugar or honey (or to taste)
For the decoration
4 long cinnamon sticks
Warm the red wine (bring to a simmer but do not boil), add the spices, then the chocolate and finally the sugar or honey to taste.
Pour into glasses, add a long cinnamon stick for decoration and serve immediately.
This recipe is for four as it is highly unlikely you will be allowed to drink this alone, but that said I often measure out a glass single glass of wine and pop it in a pan and season with around 30g of cacao, and a pinch of spices, honey etc to taste.