A Cook Book With No Recipes?

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I suggested the idea of a cook book with no recipes to several friends a few months back. Each person I asked gave me a unique response. One said, “You’re kidding me right?” Another, “You’d have to explain how that would work. It would just be a book of empty pages, wouldn’t it?” My favorite response was this, “That would be like selling a dictionary with no definitions.”

Well, it is a concept that I’ve been brainstorming for a long time. Part of it is an original thought, but the main impetus behind the idea was request after request for recipes of the foods that I would cook. When I’d say that I didn’t have a recipe, it was tough for people to understand. When they encouraged me to write one, I typically would, but, then I’d test it and it wouldn’t really taste anything like what I had originally created.

So, I began thinking about the concept of a recipe. I know that in baking, recipes are referred to as formulas because they are just that, measures of ingredients that can be multiplied to yield as many portions as one desires. You typically set the oven to one temperature and take the food out in a certain amount of time, give or take 5-10 minutes. If you don’t follow the formula, then you will likely end up with a complete disaster.

With cooking, recipes are different. There are so many factors that affect the outcome that it makes learning to cook with recipes a difficult task. Can you become a great cook by sticking to recipes? My argument is that you cannot. At least, not as good as you would be if you were to branch out, abolish your “Recipe Reliance”, and learn to create your own flavor.

Does this mean that I will not provide recipes on this site? No. But, my emphasis will be on building your confidence in the kitchen to the point that you feel comfortable throwing a meal together. This is why I love the video format. I will provide an ingredient list and I’ll throw out a temperature or a portion size now and then, but if you just watch, take notes, and estimate with terms like a handful, a pinch, a spoonful, etc… Then you’ll be setting yourself up for success. I’ll teach you how to build different flavor profiles and then you’ll personalize them. After all, only you know what your taste buds enjoy, no?

On the first day of Culinary School, our Chef gave us a talk about the dishes we would prepare under his tutelage. The part of the lecture that stood out to me the most was when he said, “You’ll all use the exact same recipe to make the same dish and every one of them will taste different. Does that mean that one of you prepared the dish correctly and the others failed? No. It means that there are infinite factors that deal with timing, heat, how small you dice your small diced onions, etc… As long as it doesn’t induce the gag reflex, then we’re doing pretty well.”

So, yes, I’ll provide recipes. Just know that I am a bigger fan of ingredient lists. Confining yourself to stringent recipes is like caging a bird. And, although Maya Angelou knew why the cage bird sang, I am confident that you’ll sing louder and fly higher if you add a little more Tabasco or another ingredient all together. Do some “informed freestyling” and make the dish your own. Then maybe someday, just maybe, you’ll be the author of your own cook book with no recipes. Let’s just hope that by that time, we get that whole gag reflex thing figured out…

Keepin’ it Paleo,

Nick

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