Posted by: terrapraeta | November 11, 2009

Cooking With Emeril*

I don’t mind stealing bread
From the mouths of decadence
But I can’t feed on the powerless
When my cup’s already overfilled,
But it’s on the table
The fire is cooking
And they’re farming babies
While slaves are working
Blood is on the table
And the mouths are choking
But I’m growing hungry

I don’t mind stealing bread
From the mouths of decadence
But I can’t feed on the powerless
When my cup’s already overfilled
But it’s on the table
The fires cooking
And they’re farming babies
While the slaves are all working
And it’s on the table
The mouths are choking
But I’m growing hungry
I’m going hungry

Temple of the Dog, Hunger Strike

I just read an article that Michael Pollan wrote for NY Times back in August. I read Michael’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma a few years back and found it to be very interesting, informative, useful.. the hat-trick in non-fiction books. This more recent article is about the relationships between the increase in processed food and corresponding decrease in real cooking in American homes, and the rise of cooking shows and Food Network, specifically.

Now, once upon a time, when I still watched tv and Food Network was just a baby, I watched it quite a lot for maybe a year or so. I was struck reading this comment regarding Iron Chef style programs:

But you do have to wonder how easily so specialized a set of skills might translate to the home kitchen — or anywhere else for that matter. For when in real life are even professional chefs required to conceive and execute dishes in 20 minutes from ingredients selected by a third party exhibiting obvious sadistic tendencies? (String cheese?) Never, is when. The skills celebrated on the Food Network in prime time are precisely the skills necessary to succeed on the Food Network in prime time. They will come in handy nowhere else on God’s green earth.(link)

You see, I have to admit, one of my favorite shows at that time was one of these competition type deals, although I can no longer remember the name. It was less “dramatic” than many of it’s descendants, but the same elements were there: ingredients chosen by two contestants that then cooked with “their” chef-partner, a standard pantry and a time limit. At the end of the show, the meals presented were judged and one of the two contestants were declared winners. I don’t recall what, exactly they won, but who cares?

The point is, I DO cook… more and more each year and in some ways, that is where it started. I mean, I actually started cooking a little in high school, and a little more once I hit college… but during those times I had a few specialties and rarely tried anything new. Whereas once I started watching the cooking shows, I started looking at cooking differently. Particularly the competition show taught me to look at food as a collection of possibilities. During that time in my life, I didn’t make “recipes” — I walked into the grocery store and wandered the produce section looking for something to pop out at me. Something on sale, or in season, or just… appealing to my senses. Once I found something, then I would continue around the store looking for meats, pastas (or other starch products) and so forth to compliment what I had so far. And then I would go home and put it all together into a meal.

To this day, I rarely use any sort of recipe. When I am canning or baking I will look at a cookbook for inspiration, for times, temperatures, procedures… and then I put it away and do what I think is best based on those recommendations. The end.

In the article, there is lots of commentary on the rise of obesity in this country and it’s absolute correlation with cooking at home. And there is talk about how, we, as a society, can get back into the kitchen and reinvent our relationship with food. The question arises, who will teach future generations to cook? I don’t think that is relevant at all. Cooking is in our very bones… sure, it’s a talent and it is a passion for some of those with talent, but regardless of talent or passion, making food is not something anyone needs to be taught… they just need to step up and do it.

** Regardless of the title… I’ve always kinda disliked Emeril. In fact, when his show started becoming the end all be all of Food Network – that’s when I stopped watching……..


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