Recipes as Musical Scores
In my chair, drinking tea and lost in looking across at my wall of cookbooks; I don’t have my glasses on so it’s an impressionistic sweep. Cookbooks. I keep remembering the scene from the Italian film, The Best of Youth where the protagonist brother sends his imprisoned wife a box of Schubert scores, because he knows that as a pianist, even in her silent isolation she’ll ‘hear’ the music on the page. That’s how I feel about cookbooks, I taste the music and imaginatively enter the recipe and live it through the reading. It becomes a dialogue, a conversation. The ingredients and measurements are the cook/composer’s taste/score or like a folk song the lineage of improvisation.
I was having this sing with a ratatouille recipe yesterday...but like music, it’s not what’s written, but how it's interpreted; how the Cook lives it to life-- how it's woken up and played.
It Doesn't need to be fancy
What do I mean by technique, classic culinary training?
Partly, because there is much in a classic training that will help you move in the kitchen effectively, just as a musician is trained,
a cook needs training. But it doesn’t need to be fancy, or cost you a lot of money, or travel expense. It just needs to help you accomplish what you set out to do.
How did I learn to cook?
Initially, I learned the basics from my mother and grandmothers, but from there it’s been on my own. Everyone has a unique way of learning; mine is to study---books, articles, tutorials, video, and apprentice to people in the field. Then I take what I’ve learned and refine it in my kitchen, until I understand the systems.
Key In Technique Tuesday
This nifty search bar will take you to all manner of wonderful posts about technique.
Effort Practice just dig in
My knowledge gaps are filled through effort and practice, to
meet my inner mark. Teaching food helps, especially to motivate me out of my comfort zones. I teach International Foodways classes, sometimes starting without a clue as to how to cook a particular cuisine, but I dig in, and the magic happens.
A reason the magic happens, and good food is made, is that after cooking so many different world cuisines I recognize patterns, especially technique patterns. There will always be a mise en place, a way of organizing the work so it flows efficiently, first this and then that. There are always quality decisions to make. I consistently follow a direction that will lead to the maximum in flavor, even if it takes more time and effort.
Knife skills are Knife skills
An inner sense of proportion, and time are part of good technique. You begin to know and trust in a way that may seem improvisational from the outside, but is filled with a hundred thousand experiences that come together to create “technique”.
Anyone who wants it, and puts in the time can have good technique. I’ll share what I know, and learn from you, and together we’ll move the art of food along an nudge.