In my younger, more innocent days in the kitchen, I believed that any good cook could become a great cook with three things:
- A reliable recipe
- The best ingredients that the recipe “called for”
- A dash of the cook’s wisdom and patience
Now that I’m older and wiser, I see the pitfalls in those theories
- First myth debunked: Just because the recipe is written by someone you know and trust does not mean it’s a good recipe. Who wouldn’t rely on a cookbook collection from a bunch of church-going cooks at the Stillwater Deanery Council of Catholic Women? Or maybe loyal members of the Paynesville Jaycee Women’s Club? Or the HealthEast Laboratories Cookbook written by a bunch of chemists who test exotic body fluids all day long. I have all three cookbooks (each covered with splotches and errant drips) on the shelf in my kitchen. I’ve had occasional questions and, knowing most of the names attached to the recipes, I’ve asked for interpretations. The usual response has been, “I don’t know. Never made that one.”
- Second myth debunked: Just because it’s trendy in the gastronomy world, doesn’t mean it tasty. With the dawn of 2016, the latest fad is Bone Broth and it’s the hottest thing since Sriracha arrived on these shores from India.
Remember how Granny used to boil turkey carcasses and chicken bones to make stock? Turns out she was way ahead of her time. Talk about our throwback to a paleo diet, this pricey soup is made with roasted bones simmered in large quantities of water for at least two days and, with a little salt and pepper added, is sold as a high-priced beverage – where else but on the streets of NYC.
- Third myth debunked: Any recipe devised by a renowned chef and featured in the Saturday Eating and Drinking Section of the WSJ will be easy to try at home. Take, for instance, the Zucchini Pancakes with Creamy Dill Sauce featured this weekend. The list of ingredients that aren’t readily available in my pantry or fridge: kefir, crème fraiche, scallions, Persian cucumbers, farmer’s cheese. Who has these on hand? Maybe if I hop a jet to Thailand and visit their city market, I can find all of them – but not at my local Safeway.
- Fourth myth debunked: What happens at breakfast stays at breakfast (and vice-versa): Oatmeal is no longer an eye-opener morning exclusive. Not when you top your bowl of steaming Quaker Oats with sun-dried tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, olive oil, croutons and a sprig of basil. Voila – you have “grilled cheese and tomato soup” – perfect for lunch or dinner. Greek yogurt, ever the dependable anytime snack, will soon be marketed with arugula, garlic, carrots, ginger star, tomatoes, basil, olives, thyme, curry. How about avocadoes for breakfast? Easy-peasy with spreadable flavors to slap on your toast.
So all you experienced cooks out there – be forewarned. Nothing is written in stone – especially the traditions of eating that now are best described as “movable feasts.” It enough to turn me into a cookbook agnostic and just proceed from memory. Maybe not such a great idea either.