cooking 101 – this is not a class, don’t take notes

recipesHow do I love to cook?  Oh, let me count the ways…


Not that I don’t love to cook, I do.  When I’m in the mood.  Which, luckily for my family, has been more and more recently.  But what I don’t love is following recipes.  It’s part of why I don’t ever really intend to bake much, such exacting precision and measuring required.  Although as you all know, I do love my bread maker.  But that’s simple baking.  Almost like the Easy Bake Oven I had when I was younger.  Back when a lightbulb actually cooked a cake.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about you’re too young to be my friend.

Kidding.  Sort of.  Just don’t make me feel old or I’ll kick you off my island.

(Sorry, digression.  It’s been a while, I get a freebie don’t I?)

Back to cooking.  I do enjoy cooking and I do enjoy reading recipes.  I just don’t enjoy following them.  To me the best dinner is a gem of an idea, marinated with some knowledge and then thrown together completely off the cuff.  If I don’t have all the ingredients I make do.  If I don’t have the right pan I whine about not going to Crate and Barrel and make do.

But really, for me, it’s all about free form expression.  I think it comes from too much time in the kitchen in my college days.  No, not my kitchen.  The kitchen of every restaurant I worked at in order to pay my way through school.  And a few years after.  There were a lot of kitchens.  In retrospect I know the chefs were working from a recipe of sorts, after all the food had to be the same every time it was ordered.  But I never saw them with an open book or a piece of paper in front of them.  I saw different ingredients, different styles, different techniques all being thrown about with the end result being a good meal.  I learned the basics of how to cook an ingredient, be it meat, veg or starch, and some guidelines on how to pair flavors.  Guess what?  There are no rules!  Chicken with orange juice and Coke?  Go for it.  What’s in the fridge?  Make it work.

Think I’m nuts?  Apparently the Wall Street Journal agrees.  With me, not you.  Check out their article on Improvisational Cooking.  Entire cookbooks are being created with no recipes.  Quick read I bet.

How is this a Compact issue?  It’s probably not, really.  If that’s the only reason you read this stuff you’re really limiting me.  Okay, how about this.  I don’t need to buy traditional cookbooks because I don’t follow the recipes.  (Good thing need is such a subjective term, I would hate to give back the totally vintage, totally great Moosewood Cookebook I picked up for $2 last month!!)  And, I don’t need to buy the new cookbooks since I already do a bang up job cooking without recipes.  Just ask the husband.  Maybe you should ask him tomorrow though.  Tonight’s experiment was a little dry.

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