Posted 09 February 2004 - 08:55 AM
John Thorne's rice and peas epiphany in the beginning of Simple Cooking is one of my favorite bits of food writing.
Yes there was a specific experience that started me off in the world of cooking. It was a giant pot of mincemeat. But it's not something I have come back to again and again over the years, in fact, I made mincemeat once when I was 16 and never cooked it again. I tell the story in the introduction to Are You Really Going to Eat That?
What made the experience enlightening was the search for ingredients. I was using venison instead of beef. And I thought that perhaps the other ingredients should be special too. The recipe called for apple cider and apples. I had just gotten my driver's license and I lived in New England. It was apple season and there were countless varieties of apples for sale by the side of the road. There were also lots of old apple cider mills that made spunky unpasteurized cider, each with a slightly different flavor. I talked to the farmers about what different kinds of apples were used for. And I drank a lake of cider. By the time I made the mincemeat, I had a new awareness of how ingredients affected a recipe.
I have let the ingredients drive my cooking ever since. Fresh berries by the side of the road, shrimp right off the shrimp boat, when I see something special, I stop the car. It's a style of cooking one French chef has called the "treasure hunt" cuisine.
Posted 09 February 2004 - 11:10 AM
Edited by John Whiting, 09 February 2004 - 03:22 PM.
Posted 11 February 2004 - 05:10 AM
Granted, it's theoretically possible to instruct without dictating. But it's pretty difficult to do. Forgive me if this seems presumptious, but could any of you suggest a new "paradigm" for recipe writing, one that encourages creativity without returning to the old pre-level measurement days?
Former Hawaii Forum Host
Posted 11 February 2004 - 05:28 AM
The minority who cook seriously -- that's us -- find those authors who speak to them in a language they understand, enjoy and find useful.
Edited by John Whiting, 11 February 2004 - 07:16 AM.
Posted 11 February 2004 - 06:44 AM
And, of course, Julia Child's, The Way to Cook, which gives you "master recipes" to depart from offers another paradigm. In a way, she was following Escoffier's "master sauces" concept.
In Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook, I put contradictory recipes side by side so people could see the range of possibilities. Some people got it, and some felt it was confusing.
As John has noted, the audience is the problem. It's hard to write for beginners and advanced cooks at the same time.
Posted 11 February 2004 - 06:54 AM
You can't easily do ingredient-driven foraging or treasure hunting until you know something about how to cook.
A few cookbooks try to impart this knowledge: Julia Child, of course, and Jacques Pepin. So, more recently does John Campbell with his very useful Forumlas for Flavour. Delia Smith does as well. And there is always Larousse, La Repertoire de la Cuisine, etc.
* example from Jack Lang's marvellous eGCI piece on eggs, here
"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le goï¿½t de ce qu'elles sont."
Posted 11 February 2004 - 07:13 AM
Two modern classics that include both are Madeleine Kamman's The Making of a Cook and Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion.
There are writers who teach technique -- how to cook, rather than what recipes to make.
Perhaps the most remarkable achievement was the Time/Life series, The Good Cook, under the editorship of Richard Olney. A friend who worked on the project told me that it was a tax dodge, in which Time/Life set out to spend an enormous amount of money. They succeeded, but much more surprisingly, they didn't waste it.