Breathtaking aromas, melodious rhythms, smiling faces- not to mention the rolling beads of sweat. This is the kitchen. This is cooking.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. I’ve spent the last 5 away from home, but no matter where I am, Thanksgiving takes me back, to memories of crowded kitchens- with most if not all of my brothers and sisters and crazy (I mean lovely) mother and some- an overflowing oven, and that last minute rush to finish the dishes we’d promised to make. I sometimes share these moments in industry and military kitchens but especially in others’ home kitchens. Such is the power of food.
I’ve mentioned that I cook, not because I’ve always dreamed of becoming a chef, but because I like to eat. I am a fan of global and local cultures and food and cooking is perhaps the broadest gateway into another’s culture.
I cook because I’m intrigued by the inherent transformation. Transformation of ingredients: from viscous eggs to rolled omelets or from flour and water to bread! The transformation of a hungry child into a an adept, cooking man or woman.
In our increasingly fast paced culture, where its easier to order out or go out, cooking is something we should hold onto- at least in part. There is something calming- almost restorative- about cooking. Chefs like Dan Barber and writers like Michael Ruhlman and thinkers like Michael Pollan argue that it’s part of what distinguishes us as human.
The process of cooking deserves greater priority, helping us to slow down, breathe, be fed and be empowered. It helps us to know our food, where it comes from, what it does, and to better know the people we share it with.
Here are some tips of how we can do it and love it:
- Mise en Place. The term any culinary student or professional is familiar with. It’s a French term literally meaning “put in place“. In terms of recipes, it means having all your ingredients and tools you’ll need to prepare them before you begin. It is to clean as you go, eliminating clutter for a relaxed and efficient brain and saving your self from a heavy duty clean up afterward.
- Don’t wait till your hungry. The same way you shouldn’t shop on an empty stomach, if you cook before you’re hungry, you can take your time and thoughtfully prepare something you’re proud of, without the interruption of a grumbling stomach.
- Start with foods you love, and maybe find something you’re good at. Learn to prepare your favorite dishes, maybe “copycat” recipes from your favorite restaurants, recipes shared from your favorite chef, or foods you’ve discovered from travels. It’s gratifying to know you can make these on your own.
- Share with others. Even Jesus cooked for his pupils (John 21)! Not only will you become their favorite, but their appreciation will boost your confidence and keep you going; their honest feedback will make you a better cook. Beyond sharing your creations, share the load. Have a tamale making party or have some friends over to help you roll up some cinnamon rolls. Have fun!
- Pay attention. think about what you’re doing. Save proven recipes. Take notes of any changes or variations that make it better or make it your own. Take notes when you see others do things that wow you. My hope is that you’re not just impressed by culinary miracles served you on the table or showcased on IG. Rather, be inspired and motivated.
Happy Thanksgiving! Happy cooking! Please share your tips below in the comments or on Twitter and Facebook @ChefTasteBud 🙂