The Food Whore posed a question on her site today, asking readers about the source of their recipes. Family? Cookbooks? Friends? The Internet? Restaurants? Your own mind?
I thought it was kind of an intriguing question, as are some of the responses. She asked readers to break them down by percentages, as part of an ongoing research project, so I will freely admit that my food is about 40% my mind, 30% father, 20% cookbooks, and 10% the Internet.
My father had a strong formative influence on what I cook, not only because of recipes that I learned from him, but because of cooking techniques he taught me. A lot of the foods I cook like hummus, roast chicken, and pasta sauce come straight from the mind of my father, but my kitchen organization is also his, as is my ability to throw together an awesome meal from disparate ingredients. This contributes to the second category, my mind. Both my father and I have the ability to call up recipes as though out of nowhere, on the basis of our knowledge of cuisine across multiple continents and budgets.
My father taught me to fearlessly concoct foods from whatever I could find, showing me which flavors went well together and how to cook cheaply and well. When I shop, I look at what looks good and what’s on sale, and I use my mental index to figure out how to cook it. For example, the fishmonger recently told me that the haddock was good. I thought about ways to prepare fish, and settled on broiling it with lemon and dill, and a light sprinkling of asiago. I did not need to look up a recipe or consult someone, because I have a sort of inner directory of how to cook various foods, including what worked and what didn’t. My father also taught me to value fresh, simple food, which contributes to my overall food philosophy.
Sometimes, I’m stumped and looking for inspiration, so I hit a cookbook, usually The Joy of Cooking. The Joy educates me while it provides me with recipes, which I appreciate. I understand the mechanics of how a recipe works and think about flavor dynamics while I leaf through it, asking myself what I am going to eat. I also tweak the recipes in the Joy, or use them as starting points for my own recipe development. I also like to look at dessert cookbooks and think about all the things that could be.
And, every now and then, I stumble across a recipe on the Internet which I just have to try. Recent cases in point are the seared rare albacore I made with Peaches last month, and the chocolate torte I first made for Baxt last summer. Usually, the recipes are accompanied with photographs which border on the pornographic, and I know, just know, that I have to make them as soon as I can get my stumpy legs to the grocery store.
Of course, now that I have revealed my sources, I’ll have to kill you. But it’s ok, I’m visualizing a honey glaze and some root vegetables, maybe roasted with maple syrup for a hint of the exotic. And sage. Yes.