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Biggest Change in Your Cooking?


rich
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what an enjoyable thread to read everyone's culinary journeys! :smile:

i grew up in the praires of canada and was greatly influenced by the produce gathered, harvested and killed on the farm. great foundation for an appreciation of food and the process it takes to the table.

after testing myself with technique and impressing people with complicated dishes, the biggest chance in the last 10 years is a return to quality produce and simple preparations. that also has something to do with lifetyle as well though.

and then ingredients - olive oil would be at the top. chili. asian ingredients.

and then as someone mentioned.... good wine. how many bottles of crap did i used to drink!! :shock:

great reading guys!

cheers

ozmouse

melbourne

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No more casseroles, cakes, cookies or any other type of baked dishes.

Nowadays oven just used to make bread, grissini, or the occasional "Fondant au chocolat".

Or for grilling/broiling.

Also, I use spices much more - and make many more sauces, condiments, reductions and preserve than I used to.

Never did use any processed foods, so no change there.

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I have learned to ignore most flavors in a recipe and whiddle it down to bare-bones in my mind. Instead of hunting down specific ingredients, i find a recipe for a something, break it down to basic ratios, and throw away most flavor additives (of course, all in my head.) Then, I reconstruct as I go. I usually have better discertion than the average recipe, so it makes sense.

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Hrmm... For me, it's a lot more of a delving into the theoretical foundations of cooking, trying to form a sort of system in my head so that I can understand how and why we should transform our raw ingredients into something both enjoyable and edible.

I've done a LOT of reading and I've got an immense backlog of things I've been meaning to cook but haven't gone about doing yet.

Right, now, I think I've good a pretty good grasp on the french philosophy which emphasizes a lot about technique and boosting flavour. I'm trying to move into italian which is a lot more about a few, natural flavours and indian which is very spice centered. After that, japanese seems to hold intriguing possibilities with it's emphasis on presentation and light, subtle cooking.

That seems to be a map of the next 15 years.

PS: I am a guy.

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10-15 years ago the majority of my meals came from restaurants and fast food; when I did cook it was with processed foods; and I had a gallbladder. There's nothing like a premature organ removal due to a high-fat diet to change one's eating habits.

Now we do occasionally make a meal out of convenience foods (Barber stuffed chicken breasts, Goya rice mixes) but most of our food is made from healthy ingredients. Fat comes from good sources -- olive oil and salmon instead of cheese puffs and candy bars.

We tend to eat a lot of vegetarian and ethnic dishes now, and from spring through fall we buy as much at the local farmers' market as we can. And the kitchen is stocked with good quality equipment.

Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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My equipment, and hence my results, have improved so much.

Plus, over just the last five years, the breadth of knowledge I aquired via the internet would have been altogether impossible otherwise.

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15 years ago I was cooking for a family of 6.On worknights I would arrive home to be greeted and to greet, with joy, my 4 children, and then rush to the kitchen. Sometimes I made dinner the night before, or did prep, so that we could eat at a reasonable hour. Now, three of those children have left home and they do enjoy food and eating (Can I cliam some of the credit?). One is still here (he has a phenomenal palate, especially for a 17-year-old). But the biggest change is that my husabnd and I swtich off cooking dinner a week at a time. So I get to cook my brains out and then relax and maybe just bake the off week.

Do I miss my formerly much livelier household? You bet I do.

My biggest change is not what I cook, or how I cook, but the time I have to do it in.

If more of us valued food & cheer & song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. - J.R.R. Tolkien
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I'll second the notion that I don't use recipes nearly as much anymore. I have quite a few cookbooks, but have mostly stopped buying them since we get 3 newspaper food sections a week and an infinite variety are available online.

I usually have in my head what I want to do and then I'll consult a couple of books or online to get that extra spice or ingredient that helps bring it all together.

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Like many others I have overcome the fear of salt. And the addition about five years ago of Calphalon cookware has made a world of difference

However the largest change has been my education in baking bread the last several years. Encouraged by Reinhart's books I now know more about it and have discovered that I can create wondeful bread in my own kitchen. This I believe is my true cooking joy. I do not want to sound like a bread geek, but I love this and am peaceful in this baking jag I have.

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I've gone from novice, to a 'cook every thing from scratch' girl. literally, the bread, pasta, fresh tomatoes, home grown basil etc..just to make lasagna! No frozen/dried/canned there. Then I had kids. Now I'm not so obsessed with the scratch thing, and I'll cook them the chicken tenders and mac and cheese and enjoy a little myself. It's been this evolution from the french chef to chef boyordee. and then to the middle. I'm willing to try anything once, but I'm not going to necessarily do it today even if it kills me type anymore. I'm more relaxed and have better stuff to play with, and even if I don't use them everyday, I use them often. My basics are better too. good olive oil, my own stocks, good salts, organics.

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I, too, went through the "salt is EEEEEVIL" phase in my cooking, but came back to salt because I finally discovered that, when used properly, it doesn't make food taste salty, it makes it taste MORE.

But the biggest change came a little over a year ago when we changed our diet to a reduced carb one. I basically had to learn to cook all over again, since most of my standards were pasta with a sauce, rice with a sauce, potatoes with a sauce.....

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I discovered I'd become a lazy and uninventive cook, and being forced to venture outside my comfort zone has made me try all kinds of new foods and new techniques and new flavors. Rather than a program of denial, it's been an adventure in the rediscovery of food.

I am also less afraid of strong flavors - not overpowering, but flavors that make your tongue stand up and take notice.

And I finally learned how to make a good reduction sauce.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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The biggest change for me took place 6 years ago when I left corporate America. All of sudden I had time to cook -- I was no longer coming home at 8pm each night and dependent on my husband getting food on the table. Right away the first thing that started to improve were my knife skills. Although they're still not perfect, I can work my way through several pounds of vegetables in a timely manner.

Like others, the amount of processed food that comes into the house has dropped. We frequently joke that there's nothing to eat because everything we buy are staples to be turned into something else as opposed to just open the bag and snack.

My devotion to supporting local farmers and eating seasonally has grown significantly. And while I was alway discerning about ingredients, I've only gotten more so.

Finally, there are the cooking basics that others refer to. I keep several types of stock on hand which I use for both soup and dishes. I'm more liberal in my use of salt and pepper. And as my technique has improved I'm less dependent on recipes.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Been reading this and thinking hard...

15 years ago I had no kids.

Does that sum it all up?

30 years ago, I was still at school, eating boarding-school food and copying out recherche recipes from the school library (which oddly, had a cooking section!).

So when I left school, I started to cook...and cook...and cook. I was obsessive about chasing up methods (more than ingredients) and finding the *perfect* recipe.

When kids started to hoist their sails on the horizon, I decided to start memorizing recipes to save time in the kitchen. That turned my cooking around - I suddenly realized that it was all about proportions, and started thinking more about what each ingredient was actually doing in physical/chemical terms, or just how the main and top notes of flavor and aroma worked. Now I use recipes rather rarely.

Good things: more flexibility and creativity.

Bad things: Surprisingly easy to get into a rut when you don't have the stimulus of other people's ideas!

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There hasn't been any particular epiphany, just slow and steady progress. And I am still having fun.

Same here.

john bought a new digital camera and wants to photograph our food :shock:

Please do!

There is much less meat and more emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

Portions are much smaller

The wine is much better quality.

Those three are true for me, except that I always did utilize lots of fruits and vegetables.

Plus, over just the last five years, the breadth of knowledge I aquired via the internet would have been altogether impossible otherwise.

That is quite true for me!

Besides those, differences for me since about 15 years ago are: then kids were home, and I was working one full time job and at least one part time job in addition (I have no idea how I managed to cook from scratch almost every night back then); we incorporate way more fruits into our dinners, such as fruits like mangoes in salsas, zest and juice of oranges and limes, grilled fruits, etc. -- much more tropical influences; I eat and cook many more "ethnic" foods and know more about them; I am more creative in combining flavors within one meal; AND, number one, of the top ten changes in my cooking since 1990 is..... eGullet is now in my life instead of the Prodigy Food and Wine Community!

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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My use of butter.

My mom is from the south, so butter was used in everything growing up (toast, breads, baked potatoes, sauteeing). As I learned to cook for myself I started using more olive oil and understanding the different fats used for cooking (even experimenting with some vegan baking). Now, I keep butter in the freezer because I mainly use it when baking but rarely use it on a day to day basis.

We always used salt. Stock was made on certain occaisons. Then again, I'm not really old enough to have been cooking for 10-15 years, so I can't imagine how my cooking will change over the coming years.

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For me, the biggest change in the last 15 years is that back then I was working and had a toddler, whereas now I am not working and have a teenager who drives.

I used to come home after a long day at work, picking up the baby at day care and maybe stopping at the grocery store, then trying to get dinner on the table as soon as possible, while also trying to make it tasty and nutritious. If I used convenience helper type foods, dinner would be served earlier than if I made dinner entirely from scratch. This was an important consideration when, someone was clinging to my legs, whining.

Now I have the luxury of time.

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I like this thread too. Interesting and thought provoking.

My biggest change was having children. Food went from being something we did as a couple for fun or by myself to stave off hunger to something much more important within the context of a family. Part of this process has been, as others have stated, focusing on the quality of ingredients and reducing the amount of processed gack we eat.

When I became a stay-at-home mother I started to spend a LOT more time in my kitchen. And I figured it was either feel tortured by this necessity or jump in and enjoy it. I chose the latter.

My kids are still kind of little... I'm looking forward to that luxury of time thing. Sounds nice. :smile: I'm sure it will take me even further along on the journey.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

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. . . . .

My kids are still kind of little... I'm looking forward to that luxury of time thing.  Sounds nice. :smile:  I'm sure it will take me even further along on the journey.

I think you have hit on the important thing. It is not where you are now, but where you are in the journey. And it is a journey. If I ever felt that I knew it all, had nothing else to learn, nothing new to explore, I think I would slit my throat! That is one of the magic things about food. It is needed. It is life sustaining in so many ways. And the variety is endless.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I was a victim of the low-fat craze for a long time. I grew up eating unusual dishes (and many organic, since my Mom was into organic gardening and also raised one cow per year for totally hormone-free beef ), so that's not new for me, but from the late 80's to the mid-90's I was in the "fat is bad" camp. When I started seeing studies about the positive effects of olive oil and the nasty effects of "fake fats" like margarine I gladly incorporated butter and oil back into my diet. It's much easier to cook a wide variety of tasty dishes when you're not paranoid about fat content. Everything in moderation, as my Mom used to say - and my cholesterol levels are just fine!

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Easily, the biggest change for me has been the testicular fortitude to try new things...that includes getting as far away from frozen dinners, and dinners-in-a-box, as possible. In doing so, I have learned to appreciate foods that I just took for granted when I went to the "Fancy Restaurants".

Moreover, I get to use the creative side of my brain...you know, the one that is asleep while I work in the office all day. Insurance ain't the most creative thing in the world....

Edited by JPipes (log)
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Seeing cooking as a treat rather then a chore.

This is the result of many things -- experience, confidence, eating out more at a range of restaurants, a job that pays well enough to afford decent equipment and ingredients, and mostly not having the time to do it as much as I'd want so that when I do, even simple dishes seem more special because I'm choosing to do it in that limited time instead of something else.

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Nine years ago, when I left the work force during my fifth month of pregnancy to became a stay-at-home mom, I started cooking and baking from scratch. I bought The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking and read them cover to cover. It seems such a long time ago that I was stirring up Bisquick pancakes, mixing brownies from a box, and slicing tubes of refigerator-section cookie dough.

While many of you seem to have expanded the repertoire of dishes you cook, I have actually gone the other way and narrowed mine down to just my and my family's very favorites. Yes, for a couple of years after I started cooking in earnest nine years ago, I experimented with ambitious recipes in various cuisines: French, English, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Korean, Italian, American Southern, you name it. I enjoyed cooking through Julia Child's two-volume masterpiece. But now I am so busy and exhausted with two young children that I stick with the tried and true, the foods we really like. That's what works for me at this stage in our lives.

More recently, about a year ago, I finally started salting food enough.

And just last month I finally resigned myself to the reality that I detest giving dinner parties at home. I have always dreaded giving dinner parties, even though I knew dinner parties at home were expected of me by (American) society. Now I just tell my friends that this is the way I am. I take friends out to dinner at restaurants.

Edited by browniebaker (log)
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I would definitely have to say how the wonderful world of computers, television, and other forms of media, has opened the eyes of people that are interested in satisfying their friends and reletives with their cooking skills. Hey, 15 years ago it was lucky to have just a few cooking shows on TV, and they were on PBS on Saturday afternoon. Today there's TV channels dedicated soley to cooking and better still there's sites like this that can answer a cooking question in a heart beat. Yeh, to me it opened up a new world of cooking when you can communicate with people with the same interests.

Polack

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