I used to spend a crazy amount of time cooking on the weekends.
If I wanted to create my own time warp, I just had to flick through to an untried recipe in a book. Hours would vaporise – from the prep to the cooking to the mouthfuls eaten to the always-dreary washing up. I’d slave for ages over farinata or tomato risotto with eggplant caviar or some sauce that needed at least three hours of cooking. It was during this recipe-crazed period that I first went to The Essential Ingredient – back when it was in Camperdown.
I remember being amazed by what they had stashed on their shelves – from hard-to-get morels (which were also hard-to-afford: a container of the wild mushrooms could cost hundreds of dollars) to ’00’ flour to many other ingredients that only food addicts could get excited about. There were also kitchen items and cookbooks aplenty.
The store moved to Crow’s Nest ages ago, and I stopped letting my weekend be monopolised by just one recipe. Which probably explains why it’s taken this long for me to actually revisit it.
It’s still a foodie haven – there’s everything from beetroot fettucine to rose petals to adorn your sweets with. There are even iced brides and grooms that you can add to cakes. The store also stocks wine with the cutest label I’d ever seen (“Rolling”), many exquisitely packaged chocolates, and more treats than your sweet tooth could chomp through.
Maybe this is me trying to read some twee geopolitical “We Are The World-ish” hope from mere shop shelves, but there are very few places where Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls can sit next to Malouf’s Mezza Orange Blossom Delight.
The problem with The Essential Ingredient is not blowing your entire monthly earnings on every item that dazzles your eye (and your tastebuds). I only ended up buying some caramelised balsamic vinegar, some porcini pasta and a tea towel, which is about as restrained as I get when it comes to making moony-eyed food purchases. In a way, it’s a relief that the store now is so far away from where I live.
The Essential Ingredient, 477 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest NSW 2065, (02) 9439 9881, www.essentialingredient.com.au