You may or may not be a foodie. Although I suspect, you do love your late night quality chocolate, don’t you?
Well, while I like to consider myself one, I’ve never really known what the true definition was—formally. You know I like to cook, love to eat and am fascinated when walking around a cooking store. I’ve interviewed top chefs, try lots of new restaurants and watch the food shows. And the later was when I realized, that I might be better than I thought.
At cooking, that is. Yes, there surely are psychological challenges when it comes to confidence, no doubt. But I’m speaking specifically about food. Pure, unadulterated food. And while I’ve only eaten at the Culinary Institute of America (never enrolled there), I think I can say that I might actually be able to throw together a decent dish, when confronted with some less than common ingredients.
If you get the Food Network, you know Chopped. It’s the cooking challenge that pins four players against each other in a cook-off consisting of appetizer, entrée and dessert. And most assuredly, is not for the faint of heart. In it, contestants are given lovely picnic baskets of unknown ingredients. Once opened, they must empty their basket, using all of the most seemingly unrelated food items together in one cohesive dish—all in 1/2 hour.
Now, there are some weird things indeed. Like olives for dessert. Eyeballs from some four-legged creature. Veggies I’ve never heard of. Different pastes or sauces. And one test of creative flair. Ramps? What the heck are they? I Googled it and found they are related to leeks and scallions. Who’d have known? This is serious stuff.
But, even though you may not have used an ingredient, or cooked with it, you begin to get a sense of what you might do with something sweet or savory. Something for an appetizer or an entrée. How to put together a dessert without chocolate. And how to ‘plate’ anything—to make it look lovely, appetizing and worth probably ten times the ingredient cost (although it is about the labor and the time and the love).
OK, it’s the little things. I get excited when I guess what to do with ingredients and the guest chef actually does it. But as with anything in life, once you do it, you get the formula. Or in this case, the recipe. You know when to sauté, when to bake, when to add some sugar, when to add some spice. It may not come naturally, but it does come from practice, practice, practice.
And I know it. My guys come home from work and wonder what’s on the chopping block tonight for dinner. And on most nights, I can say that the meal has been savored. The ingredients, while not exotic, are quite good. And I doubt I’ll be ‘chopped’ anytime soon.
What have you learned by practice rather than by study? Is it more rewarding? Have you gained confidence by trying something and succeeding?