How Do You Cook? - 'Changes in Recipes & Cookbooks' from NYTimes

This article struck me as very interesting. In part, I suppose that’s because I don’t really buy or use cookbooks, so the changes were not something I was really aware of.

More importantly, however, is the fact that it leads to questions concerning our individual cooking “philosophies”. It’s a subject I’ve kicked around in my head for a while now, and even alluded to a few times on the old site.* I think it is a wonderful topic for discussion on these boards.

Me? I look at recipes as an initial offer in a transaction - a jumping off point for negotiations, if you will. They provide a chance to assess whether I have any basic interest in the deal; or, the means to make it work. But, admittedly, this approach is a luxury borne out of thirty-odd years of learning the “rules” and techniques, trial and error, great meals, epic fails, and several scars.

On a more personal level, I dig change. Shudder at excessively linear thought, gift wrap with allegory and revel in the shadows of nuance. As much as I enjoy Chopin, I prefer Charlie Parker. No one will ever convince me that chili isn’t really just a curry from a different spice rack.

Anyway . . . .

The point is, take a quick read and see if it makes you think about yourself and your approach in the kitchen. The question is, How do you cook?

  • Which reminds me, somewhere back there is the crabcake recipe hidden in a story about my Grandmother. I need to get that back.

i found this piece fascinating. when i read a recipe, i can tell immediately if i will like it, and, because i’ve been cooking for decades, what i can change or sub. years ago, in the times, there was a recipe for a flour less cake involving eggs, sugar and ground nuts to which chopped apples were to be added. i like apples, but i like chocolate more, so i subbed chopped bittersweet chocolate and dried cherries for the apples. but it take experience to know what will work.

i also remember going to a thanksgiving dinner where someone brought that spinach, sour cream, knorr’s soup mix dip and, wanting to be “creative,” added toasted sesame oil. so…

re the comments on this piece, i’m in agreement with roseanne, who wrote:

“When I am hungry and tired but want a good home-made dinner I also want a recipe that is straightforward and easy to follow that yields delectable results. When I am sated, sitting in an armchair or bed, with a good steaming cup of tea beside me I want an engaging narrative. This narrative might come with photos or drawings but it is the words that draw me in, the anecdotes that illustrate for me how the writer and I are both different from and similar to each other. That narrative might lead to one of the recipes I use when I have time and desire to cook in a more complex way. Let’s celebrate the best of both of these kinds of cookbooks, not allow ourselves to get too cute or too trivial in our sometimes frantic attempts to capture the short attention spans of the contemporary cook. And let’s not forget the wonderful writing of still sadly missed Laurie Colwin while when we do. The great beauty of the also sadly missed Gourmet magazine was that at its best it gave us good recipes and informative, delightful prose. It promised adventure, good taste and good judgment, and it generally delivered. In my dreams it is still among us.”

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Variety is, after all, the spice of life. Personally, I find our individual preferences and processes to be fascinating. Both in terms of what they are, as well as what they can allow us to question and contemplate about ourselves.

(Sorry about the delay in getting back to you, as well as letting this topic drop for a spell.)

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2