Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Do I Cook?

There are a couple comments and questions I always get when I tell someone I'm a culinary student.

The first is usually, "Oh, so you want to open your own restaurant?" I don't really get this one. People don't ask law students if they want to start their own firm, or teaching students if they want to open their own schools.

In case you were wondering, no, I don't want my own restaurant. I don't even want to work in restaurants anymore, I have other goals. While Anthony Bourdain gives most of my reasons in wonderful, thought out, and colorful language not to own a restaurant in his now classic book, Kitchen Confidential, I really don't like the hours any more.

Another big question I get is "What do you like to cook?" I like to cook everything. I certainly have preferences, but they change all the time. Three main influences though: how much does it cost, how big of a mess does it make, and how long will I be standing in the kitchen.

I also don't like the perception that people, especially those preparing "home cooking," tend to think their cooking isn't good enough for me, that somehow I won't like it because it's "simple." That's far from the truth. A lot of care usually goes into preparing it and that comes through in the taste.

I like to explore other cultures through food. But with all the various techniques and ingredients, spices are the easiest to keep on hand for variety in the kitchen.

The most common things I do usually involve either pasta or rice, chicken, some vegetables and some sort of sauce. Just any culture you look at will have some variation of this and just the sauce ingredients determine its origin.

One annoying thing about making things up is people always want to know what you call it. Why does it have to have a name? Does it taste good? That's all that matters.

A lot of people find cooking intimidating, but they shouldn't. People have been cooking for millennia. In times like these, cooking is a very useful skill to have for yourself because it will save you money and allow you to control the nutritional value. If you have everything prepared before you actually start cooking, it can be enjoyable. Cut up all your produce and meat, have everything in front of you so you won't need to look around for some ingredient you forgot and accidentally burn something. This definitely includes reading a recipe a couple times and having it in front of you.

Cooking is definitely an art, but not everyone has to be a Picasso. It doesn't have to be complicated and difficult to understand. All that matters is that it tastes good. Just as any child can pick up a paintbrush and paint a nice picture, to some extent, anyone can take a few ingredients and prepare something tasty. You may not be super successful the first couple times, but confidence is just as much an ingredient as anything else. As long as you don't burn it, there's only so much damage you can do that will end up with something inedible.

So start simple, think it out, and have confidence. Don't be hard on yourself, it's an adventure and a journey so enjoy it.

No comments:

Post a Comment