Saturday, October 24, 2009

They make me happy.

Cherokee Purple. Stupice. Green Zebra. Yes, heirloom tomatoes. Our neighbors bought them in local farming community today and delivered some to our doorstep. They made me silly happy. Silly happy because it's the end of October and silly happy because they taste so damn good. I made a special run to the artisan cheese shop this afternoon to get fresh mozzarella to pair with them. Stand back, sisters and brothers. I'm not inclined to share.

Two weekends ago I made dinner at my parents house. My mom is a phenomenal cook. I may have said this before but it deserves repeating. I never knew how good my brother and I had it growing up until I went away to college and started going home with my roommates.

The funny thing is, I never clued in to how different our kitchens were until that weekend. I have a gas cooktop. Hers is electric, the kind that's flat and easy to wipe clean. It was her choice; she remodeled her kitchen perhaps five years ago. She has two kinds of salt: table and Kosher. I have seven. I have four sets of dry measuring cups. She has a single set of wet ones. (No idea why I have so many -- one was a gift and they are very cute.) She has McCormick Schilling Vanilla. I have Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and Mexican Vanilla.

Our generation has been taught that the best food comes from the best ingredients, thank you Alice Waters. Yet, my mom can outcook me any day of the week blindfolded. I can cook. Fairly well. But cookbooks were made for me. I don't deviate. I follow the recipes step by step and come out with the expected results. Timed correctly with the other courses if I'm lucky.

Can someone explain this to me? Is love the secret ingredient or are some people just born with the gene?


Thom Singer said...

I think there is something just special when your mom cooks for you. My mom was not a "great" cook... but she was a "good" cook. (She was Irish, so if she couldn't boil it or bake it... she did not make it!). But my memory makes all her meals gourmet in my mind. Even the "chipped beef on toast" was a family favorite... which we all know what that is called (Sh** on a Shingle).

Polka Dot Moon said...

I find myself hungry when I read your posts :)

Oh how I miss a farmers market.....

Ron Hutzul said...

So here is - at the end of the day "cooking well" is a confluence of factors including:
a) using the best and freshest ingredients available,
b) a solid understanding of the basic chemistry behind cooking - which allows one the freedom to deviate,
c) knowledge of your "audience" and their personal preferences
d) a repertoire of dishes you've executed enough times to know off the top of your head how to "save" or adjust for a particular taste or pairing (based preferences noted about)
e) the experience to bring all of these things together to turn what you've got into something amazing it's not what you've got to start with, (though that counts too) but rather what you do with it and for whom, (and how well you know them) and how many times you've been through it all before.