will england :: food : meta rules for cooking

From: Kirrily 'Skud' Robert
Subject: My meta-rules for cooking, was Re: How To Make Fried Rice. Correctly.

On Fri, 23 Oct 1998 23:02:46 GMT, Lady Kayla wrote:

>One of the best parts of cooking is the chopping and
>preparing of everything beforehand. This is assuming you have the
>time. During the week it's "throw everything in the pan and see what
>it turns out like". At the weekend, if I'm feeling more relaxed, it's
>"everybody out of the kitchen, I want to _cook_." :)

Thus giving me the perfect opportunity for "Skud's meta-cooking rules"
that I've been meaning to post for a week now.

Kayla, I couldn't agree more. I love spending an afternoon messing
around with food.

Here are my meta-rules, anyway:

1. If you don't have time for messing around, don't do it. Go out and
pay someone else to do it, or make vegemite on toast, or something.[0]

2. Listen to your body. What do you feel like eating? If your body
gives you hints like "I need carbs!" or "I'm low on iron!" it will
get you started; otherwise, flip through some glossy recipe books until
something makes your mouth water.

3. You don't need a recipe, but it can help. Sometimes a recipe will
show you how to do things; sometimes it's just a starting point. If
you have the facilities[1], try to find several similar recipes and
take note of what they have in common and how they differ. Then
think about how this relates to what's in your fridge/pantry/garden,
what shops are open, how much time you have, etc. What you end up
cooking doesn't have to be exactly what was in the book.

4. Always have as much stuff in your pantry as possible. I mean it.
Just to give you some idea, [this list] will tell you what was in my pantry
on the weekend when I tidied it up a bit. A smallish vegie/herb
garden will also help, as will a fridge well-stocked with moderately
long-lasting staples (esp. dairy). All this stuff means that you
can cook cheaply and easily and with minimum fuss - you won't need
to specially buy small quantities of some obscure thing at
supermarket prices.

5. Know your ingredients, and know how to combine them. These are
basically rules enshrined in oral tradition - listen to your
grandmother about this stuff: lamb and rosemary, lamb and mint sauce,
tomato and basil, cinnamon and cloves and ginger, cumin and coriander,
beef and mushrooms and red wine, turkey and cranberry, roast pork and
apple sauce, and so on. If you know these combinations by heart, it
will be easy to figure out what goes with what.

6. This shouldn't need stating, but I'll do it anyway: use good
quality, fresh ingredients. Or at least, try to do this as your
resources allow. Shop at markets and delis, grow your own herbs,
and so on. Don't use things that are in packets unless you absolutely
can't do it yourself; see point 1.

7. Cook with friends and for friends. They'll make it more fun, give
you feedback, and help you wash the dishes. Tell them you'll cook if
they bring a bottle of wine - this almost always works :)

8. Try new things. Either pull new things out of recipe books, or
ask the local shopkeepers what that strange <whatever> is, and what
it's used for. This is particularly good for trying out cheeses,
pickles, marinades and other deli-type food. Go to ethnic restaurants
and see if you like the food, then learn to cook it. Never keep
cooking the same thing week in, week out. Stay excited by food.

Anyway, I think that's about it for my meta-rules. Hrmm.. must save
a copy of this :)


[0] Cue vegemite thread...
[1] http://soar.berkeley.edu/ is really good for this



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