Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cooking "styles"

There are many kinds of cooks.

Some are "to the letter" cooks. Give them a recipe, and it will be followed to the letter. Everything added at the precise moment, measured to the 1/8th teaspoon, cooked to the millisecond. Being precise and having attention to detail are great qualities in a cook! Baking requires this precision, because it is chemistry. Get the chemistry of your cake batter off, and it will be flat, or too delicate to hold up when you try to remove it from the pan and frost it. Your muffins may be more like hockey pucks. A precise detailed cook will rarely have failed dishes, as long as they follow tested, proven recipes.

Some cooks love mixes. Pre-mixed ingredients are a big help in many kitchens. Just add water! Recipes they love best often involve one package of this, mixed with one box of that, and a can of cream soup. Mixes are really great for beginning cooks as they learn, and younger children who want to get involved in the kitchen. Many of my "Family Favorites" cookbook recipes are this style. Families with food allergies have a more limited selection, but before we encountered our allergy journey, I kept more pre-mixed ingredients on hand.

Some cooks are free spirits. A dash of this, a pinch of that. Add some of those "to taste." Hand a recipe to this cook, and the end result will probably be close to the recipe, but it will have a definite personal touch. Being adventurous in the kitchen can lead to amazing new discoveries, and some that are not-so-amazing too. I have seen this type of cooking described as alchemy, taking humble elements of food and transforming them into something delicious and nourishing, even comforting, by a mysterious and often unrepeatable process.

Recipes from this type of cook can be really grating to the first type of cook. You can't measure "a pinch" of something! How much is "to taste?" Aaaargh!

I am a dash-and-pinch cook. I often make a dish by starting with a basic concept: Soup or stew, for example, and then I open my spice cabinet and see what looks good. I take a sniff here and there, and toss in what smells good, until the supper smells good!

Because I know that this can be confusing, I will try to at least make an estimate on quantities. If a recipe I post is confusing, please leave me a comment asking, and I will try to clarify.

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