Creatives in the Kitchen #2

All photographs included in this article belong to Melissa Wastney.

Grow your own, surround yourself with nature, and dare not to connect with the act of eating and cooking. Almost impossible! Following Melissa Wastney’s blog, Tinny Happy, that she has been keeping for ten years (!) made me wonder if she wouldn’t be one of those people. I guess I hit the spot!

Being the oldest of 5 children growing up on a farm, she helped her parents a lot with food preparation. “It was a great education and the best thing was that my Mum gave me all the freedom. I could experiment, help and bake anything I liked, as long as i did the dishes afterwards”. A simple method that rooted nice habits, I believe.

Bits of her life: cake, tea, flowers from the garden, and beautiful pottery.

Sorry for presenting Melissa inside a Creatives in the Kitchen series with no further details. She writes and edits a magazine about education. She works with textiles: knitting, sewing, embroidering (plus a little painting too), and she’s a craft teacher. Her blog documents all that and her life with partner Tom and two kids in an old house on a hill in Wellington, New Zealand.

I can tell for sure Melissa is a recipe follower, specially when making something new. As she confirms, “I don’t like wasting ingredients, so I’d rather have a success and then change it up the second time”. Perhaps something grew inside her due to reading a lot of cookbooks as a kid. Melissa was very fond of discovering how each dish was made. “One can learn a lot by following recipes — there are so many ways to cook things”.

As an adult, her relationship with food is different. In her teenage years she had cravings and obsessions about cooking something specific. “Now my thoughts around food are mostly about what we will make for dinner at the end of a busy working day, and whether we have enough fruit and bread for the kids to take to school the next morning”.

There’s a conscience towards food I appreciate in Melissa: “I love food and feel very grateful to have access to plenty”. Plus, doing intermittent fasting is helpful for her mental health — food became more precious.

As a crafter, I wouldn’t expect her to say the opposite: “it’s fulfilling to make something yourself”. As Melissa told me, she uses her own hands to make something that brings her joy and comfort, and that she hopes others will like too.

Holydays banquet!

Having favourite music playing and a glass of wine nearby are pros of the act of cooking. Being Tom an excellent cook, she’s often his assistant while cooking dinner, taking it as “a good chance to tell each other everything about our day”.

“I love how the sharing of food brings people together and makes troubles seem smaller. Even if only for a little while”. And that’s it. What better motivation to make you want to run to your kitchen right away?

Q&A à la minute

How do you let your creativity flow in the kitchen? I don’t think I’m an especially creative cook. I do like using things from my garden such as fresh herbs and edible flowers to flavour and decorate meals. I also love to cook Asian food like laksa and noodles and different types of curries.

Do you have an intuitive mix of ingredients that always work together?One mix I really like is the sour/sweet of limes with the heat of chilli and other spices. My parents have a lime orchard, and lately I’ve been making lime pickle using their fruit and experimenting with different Indian recipes. The pickle seems to be completely different every time I make it but is really good alongside lentil and rice dishes and even with cheese and crackers.

Another combination I love is sweet strawberry and sour-ish rhubarb. I have a lot of rhubarb growing in the garden, and sometimes make a shortcake with the two fruits stewed together inside. It makes a delicious dessert with Greek yoghurt, and is nice cold with coffee the next morning for breakfast, too.

What was your first thought about food today? My first thought was gratefulness when Tom handed me my morning coffee in my favourite pottery cup while I was still in bed. It’s his trick to coax me to get up faster.