|Elegant? Yes. |
The soul of cooking lives in every person. I grew up in a house where a home prepared meal from scratch was revered above all. I love to cook and have a great passion for it. My wife grew up in a house with two microwave ovens so the family of four could all eat hot food together. She also (don't tell her) loves to create in the kitchen. So what is behind the internal drive that changes raw ingredients into food art?
I was recently watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations in Paris, and it struck me how he was so amazed by all of the new focus toward chefs that were creating French food with external influence. This really was amazing, because French food is revered by the French for its ability to persevere in the face of external influence and rely on its tradition. This got me to wonder, how is any food worth having unless it was prepared with passion and innovation at its core?
Do you cook with a finished product in mind, or do you let the ingredients at hand guide you to the dinner table? That is a big question I face most every time I get down to serious food preparation.
Half the fun of cooking, for me, is seeing what base ingredients I have that are fresh and ready to go, and what they want to do on the stove to get ready for me to eat them. A base of vegetables, a main protein, perhaps some starch (a whole separate post here; as my wife often muses 'do we need starch with every meal?') all seem to talk to me and tell me how best to assemble them into a meal fit for my family. Last, and absolutely not least, the sauce. In my opinion, sauces are the stand up comic of the meal. Always edgy in one way or another, usually adding a balancing flavor that was missing with the raw ingredients, making you think in a different way (and happier for the experience). The sauce is also usually demanding of applause above and beyond what the main ingredients have to offer. A little bit cocky.
Cleveland's West Side Market - Ingredients Galore. (Image courtesy of viCARIous)
Several of my family members love to cook with a finished product in mind. It looked good in a magazine, so they want their finished plates to look just like the picture on page 47 of the July issue of Such-n-such. The challenge for them is to see if they can tame the process, tame their kitchen, and most of all, tame the ingredients to shape and bend and mold everything into the picture perfect meal. Most times it is an awe inspiring journey for them and fun-fun-fun for everyone else to eat. Perhaps I can't face such challenges, but for me the playing field is always more friendly if I let the food have its way with my kitchen (and me); almost unlocking the foods' inner runway model, showing off in front of the paparazzi.
So, I encourage you all to look at your food tonight. What did it look like an hour ago? Two hours? A week ago? What did you let the food do to you, and what did you do to the food? Why do you cook? Do you create, or do you like the challenge of duplication, emulation, honoring a favorite chef in your past (family or famous) while you cook tonight? I won't apologize for the number of questions, but your responses may help me think of new ones...