Saturday, June 14, 2008

Alchemy or Cooking.



I like the Food Network. But my first taste of cooking shows was Public Broadcasting Systems' (PBS). Food Network came along years later. On channel 13 I watched Justin Wilson from Louisiana, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, the Galloping Gourmet, the Chinese guy, Yan Can Cook (I still use a big cleaver for a knife because of him) - I watched them all. My favorite was Justin Wilson.

Today my favorite show is Good Eats because host Alton Brown explains what happens in the cooking and ingredient mixing process, plus the guy is a little wacky. Two other favorites: America's Test Kitchen on PBS (the same people that do the Cook's Illustrated Magazine) and Sara Moulton, lately of PBS' Weeknight Meals. Mrs. Moulton is a professional cook. She knows the how and why of good cooking and good food. Some I don't care for: Emeril annoys me. Bam this, Emeril. The lady from Louisiana has a voice that is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. And her two boys need to cut the apron string sometime before they turn 50. Sara Lee is a little too soccer mom for me, Barefoot Contessa, a little too Hamptons, although both of them seem likable as people. The Cake Show with the Goth, Gen X'ers is way too hip for me, plus I can't watch anyone cook with tattoos on their neck. But hey, to each his own. Remember the Two Fat Ladies cooking show on BBC? That was an all time great.

From all of this I have concluded the following, shall we say, fundamental, rules of good food:
  1. Cooking is chemistry: you can ruin good food with poor cooking.
  2. Cooking isn't alchemy: you can't make a good meal with bad ingredients.
  3. Spices enhance flavor, they do not create it.
  4. Opposites create depth when done appropriately. Sweet/sour, salt/bland, hot/cold, oily/dry, crispy/soft, yin/yang (sorry). The simpler the better. For example: lemons, sugar, water. Fresh bread, cheese, tomato, salt. Chocolate, coffee. Cold beer, pretzels.
  5. Vine-ripened, fresh, natural always taste better.
  6. Occasion and company add or subtract from taste and enjoyment. Dining is more than eating. An animal eats at a trough, a person at a table.
  7. Nothing is good without appreciation and gratefulness. Never "turn your nose up" at the charity expressed in a cooked meal. If a hot dog is all you have -- be thankful you have it.

2 comments:

Dena said...

I love America's Test Kitchen - I bought their cookbook when a bookstore was closing down and it is the best one that I own!! It always explains their research process before the recipe - which helps you understand what not to do when you want to get creative with a recipe.

Food is Great. :)

Francis Shivone said...

I agree -- they are the best.