Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Tale of Two Cooks

My mother is a very good cook.  In terms of technical know-how and reliability, her cooking expertise far exceeds my own.  On her watch, everything gets cooked correctly.

So why do I hate her cooking?  The answer is simple: style and preparation.  My mother primarily relies on the same recipes she's been using for thirty years.  Do you remember what American cuisine was like thirty years ago?  That was the era when frozen vegetables were "fancy" for most people, and fresh vegetables virtually unheard of.  The majority of her meals involve an enormous slab of meat.

Personally, I am not a good cook.  I'm terrible at frying things.  I'm an indifferent baker.  Yet I like my own cooking better than anyone else's, and the reasons are the same I cited above: style and preparation.  I like to peruse recipes for inspiration.  A lot of my specialties are very simple and simply cooked foods that, in combination, become something more.  Example:  One of my favorite breakfasts involves sliced Spanish chorizo, chickpeas, tomatoes, and torn parsley all tossed together in a skillet.  It's an idiot proof dish--anyone with minimal cooking skills could prepare it.  But the dish itself has a taste that's to die for.

My point here is not that technical skill in the kitchen isn't important!  And with practice and attention to detail, anyone can overcome natural deficiencies in skill.  My point is, rather, that taking the time to assemble a meal--with main dish and sides that harmonize or a fantastically pulled-together single dish--can work wonders, and you don't have to have a lot of skill to do it.

So experiment.  Find out what foods go together, what you like, and don't be afraid to take things to the next level with a dash of freshly grated cheese, green herbs, or chopped nuts.  Little things like that have a big impact on a meal, and they're delightfully easy.

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