For Matthias Vandeweghe
To my mind the most fundamental difference a cook can make lies in his or her ability to transform a ”matter” of nutrition into a means for embodying other sources of nourishment — sensual, aesthetic, ardently human; above all, loving. Why cook? To give love body and food heart; to give love and food, in their ”wedding” over fire, a flavor all your own.
Love, with its power to enliven as it eases, to strengthen as it soothes — love’s great vibrancy and warmth of spirit, by the way of the cook, can become the staples in a daily regimen of ongoing inner peace and deep-seated satisfaction.
A Flemish man I know — an accomplished painter, sculptor and graphic designer; a devoted husband and father — studied French cuisine for three years so that he could cook for his family and friends. ”If you love someone,” he once told me, ”it’s only natural to want to cook for them. The challenge is to cook with all the care and commitment to excellence that deep feelings of love and affection require.“ He said that he wanted the quality of his cooking to be like rays of light illuminating the depths of his love for those he held dear.
These words were uttered back in the late nineteen nineties, when my wife and I were visiting him and his family at their spacious home outside Brussels. I was there to paint his portrait, which we eventually worked on together. The visit was so long ago that I can’t remember his exact words. What I do remember — what remains indelible — is the outstanding quality of the meals he prepared for us. „No,“ he told me, „you can’t overlook the skill, the artistry — a kind of love in action — that is necessary to do love justice.“