Friday, August 24, 2007

Some Cooking FAQs

Question: Have you always liked to cook?
Answer: No. When I was going through adolescence, I shunned anything that was stereotypically a "woman's job." Cooking, sewing, cleaning, mending...I had a very limited and mistaken notion that feminism meant shunning the "woman's world" to live in the "man's world." As you can probably see by this blog, I have grown out of that phase and come to realize that true feminism is about making choices. It's about doing what I choose to do, and not what I have to do or am expected to do. This realization coincided with my discovery that I enjoy cooking, playing around in the kitchen, and sharing my creations with others.

Question: I've noticed most of your recipes are vegetarian. Do you eat meat?
Answer: I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat a lot of meat. I've never liked read meat (which includes pork), and so I stopped eating it about 15 years ago. Though I'm not strict about it...if there's some sausage here or bacon there, it usually doesn't bother me. Beef is the one exception...I really don't like it. But because my reason for not eating red meat is a taste preference, I don't cook with it. While I do cook with poultry and seafood, I find that the world of vegetables seems to offer much more variety, and for that reason, most of my creations tend to be vegetarian.

Question: So where do you get your ideas?
Answer: I just cook a lot. I've found that the more I cook and try new recipes, I begin to understand what flavors and textures work together. I become more bold in putting things together myself. However, there are several places that I tend to draw my inspiration:

I have been getting Cooking Light for over 5 years now, and I love it. It's where I get most of my "every day" cooking recipes. What I love about this magazine is that rather than lots of "low fat" s, the recipes focus on healthy ingredients and variety. I look forward to getting my new issue every month, and Psycling will attest to the fact that (other than a few staples) I rarely cook anything more than once. We've hardly repeated a recipe since we've been together (and we're going on five years this fall). But why repeat things when I get a new magazine filled with great ideas every month? I also love the Gourmet and Food and Wine magazines.

There are also certain cookbooks that I could not do without:

Back Left is The Professional Pastry Chef
by Bo Friberg. It's really more of a text book and a cook book and really lays out the fundamentals of the techniques and theory of baking and pastry arts. I've learned so much from it. Back center is The Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America. Another text book, it is a great resource for good, solid, basic recipes, and a wealth of knowledge about preparation of different foods, and many different cooking techniques. Back right has the Complete Seasonal Cookbook representing my Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. I have never been disappointed by a Williams-Sonoma recipe. In the front we have more general cookbooks. I think How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman is a must have for every home chef. Bittman covers many different cooking techniques and understanding of different foods, and demonstrates how a few different changes to a single "recipe" can lead to vastly different, but still yummy dishes. It makes variety in home cooking easy and approachable. And finally, we have Pie by Ken Haedrich. If a recipe for a pie exists, you will find it here. And Ken Haedrich breaks down the fundamentals of what makes a good pie, namely the crust. There are lots of tips, and I have learned almost everything I know about pie baking form this book...quite a feat since I grew up under the influence of lots of Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch cooking (where pie is a staple of the diet).

So there you have it. How I came to discover my love of cooking, and the influences that have shaped it along the way.

Good Night :-)