Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Ready, Set, Cook. But When?
Since cooking is now woven into the continuum of my perception of reality, it always seems a bit odd to write about it as if it was a discrete activity that takes place in a kitchen or around a campfire and has an identifiable beginning and end point.
Of course, I have not always thought about cooking as an indistinct process.
There was a time when I thought that cooking was something that began with the preparation of the ingredients and ended when the food was plated. Later, after I had begun to create dishes in my mind prior to their physical construction, I realized that this too was part of the cooking process and, darnit, it was just silly to think that something like cooking (or any process really) could be perfectly delimited in space and time.
However, just because I may be convinced that something is silly, does not mean that I don't do it -albeit slightly.
Since I began working at the farm I tend to think that any cooking I do there begins outside of the kitchen. There is no one place or time that it starts. One day the start point might be in the barn where the chickens roost and incubate (in vain, I should add) the eggs that I am planning to turn into a flan or beet infused pickle. Or it might begin out behind the dairy barn where the bull calf in the photo above is being born.
(See much more here.)
Until recently I was not convinced that there was any advantage to having a fungible understanding of when cooking begins. But that was because I had not yet considered the disadvantage of doing the opposite and arbitrarily saying that cooking -and by extension the work of the cook- begins and ends in the kitchen.
The disadvantage of saying that cooking is something that begins and ends in the kitchen is that if you believe it then cooking becomes an extremely limited intellectual enterprise. I mean, how many of us are really going to be happy chopping, sauteing, braising etc. all day everyday? But expand your definition of when cooking begins to include at least the admission that you cannot be sure, and the work becomes endlessly fascinating as your curiosity takes you out of the kitchen and into the world in search of everything you think you need to know in order to be the very best cook you can be.
That's way cool.