Dedicated to my mother, Claudia, the first great cook.
Myr has finally dragged me, kicking and screaming, to start posting my recipes on-line. A bit of family history and cooking philosophy is perhaps in order so any gentle readers will understand where I am coming from.
My mother was a middle child in a large family. As a result, the older sisters did all of the cooking and my mother never learned “family home cooking” in her mother’s style. She liked to say that when she married my father she “could only boil an egg and make French Onion Soup.” Starting from scratch, as it were, she experimented with a variety of cuisines, frequently influenced by my father’s travels to Japan and Europe. Dad would return with tales of foods he had eaten and she would attempt to replicate the dishes with the ingredients available at the time (the 1950s to 1960s). At a time when most Americans were eating hot dogs, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, she served us Pizza , Chicken Teriyaki, and hot German Potato Salad (long before these became standard American foods).
My mother taught me her style of experimental cooking and I ran with it. When I was working in the North Sea, I paid attention to what the Spanish cooks were making for dinner. The same was true when I traveled in Europe and when we lived in Chengdu and Hong Kong. I picked up cook books the way many people pick up novels. It became a challenge to find cuisines I had not experimented with, but I was experienced enough now that I could rarely make any dish exactly as written. I always had to tinker, particularly when my wife’s health required an extremely low fat diet.
What makes a dish a particular dish?
Five recipes might have the same name but have only a few main ingredients in common. I learned to read and compare recipes and select the elements that I felt should make the dish. I might take ingredients from some of the recipes and cooking techniques from the others and come up with something unique and my own. I realized recently that this is the same technique used by the “Cook’s Illustrated” staff in creating their recipes. (I am a faithful reader by the way, but I have serious issues with some of their base ecological and culinary assumptions.) Sometimes this process would produce spectacular culinary disasters, but more often than not my dishes were successful.
Myr has convinced me to begin posting my journey on this blog from time to time.
2 responses to “Dedication”
Oh! My mom used to cook like that too. She would search out the ladies in our neighborhood that could teach her traditionally prepared foods. The German lady down the street taught her to make sauerkraut from scratch, the Italian lady two blocks over that taught her the right way to make sauces, and her own recipes from working in a Chinese restaurant!
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