Tag Archives: cooking

Common Cooking Mistakes

We all make mis­takes when cook­ing, right? Cook­ing Light says that “the cre­at­ive cook can often cook her way out of a kit­chen error, but the smart cook aims to pre­vent such cre­ativ­ity from being neces­sary”. In order to help you along your way to “smart cook” status, Cook­ing Light com­piled a list of forty-three com­mon cook­ing mis­takes you can learn to avoid.

Such mis­takes include: sli­cing meat with the grain, not ‘shock­ing’ veget­ables once they’ve reached the desired tex­ture, and not let­ting meats get to room tem­per­at­ure before put­ting them in the oven. I need to pay par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to com­mon mis­take num­ber one:

1. You don’t taste as you go.

Res­ult: The fla­vors or tex­tures of an oth­er­wise excel­lent dish are out of bal­ance or unap­peal­ing.

For most cooks, tast­ing is auto­mat­ic, but when it’s not, the price can be high. Recipes don’t always call for the “right” amount of season­ing, cook­ing times are estim­ates, and res­ults vary depend­ing on your ingredi­ents, your stove, altitude…and a mil­lion oth­er factors. Your pal­ate is the con­trol factor.

via b3ta

The Rise of Cooking Shows, the Fall of Cooking (and Happiness)

I almost ignored this bit-too-long piece on the rise of the TV cook­ing show and the sim­ul­tan­eous fall of the home cooked meal (via @borrodell).

That decline has sev­er­al causes: women work­ing out­side the home; food com­pan­ies per­suad­ing Amer­ic­ans to let them do the cook­ing; and advances in tech­no­logy that made it easi­er for them to do so. Cook­ing is no longer oblig­at­ory, and for many people, women espe­cially, that has been a bless­ing. But per­haps a mixed bless­ing, to judge by the culture’s con­tinu­ing, if not deep­en­ing, fas­cin­a­tion with the sub­ject. It has been easi­er for us to give up cook­ing than it has been to give up talk­ing about it — and watch­ing it.

But com­bined with this short art­icle dis­cuss­ing the joys a cook­ing show brought to one fam­ily, and the myri­ad bene­fits it brought to their chil­dren, I felt they were per­fect com­ple­ments.

A funny thing happened on the way through the cook­ing show obses­sion. What we were see­ing on the screen began trick­ling into our kit­chen. The kids sud­denly perked up dur­ing our weekly vis­its to the loc­al farm­ers’ mar­ket, insist­ing on check­ing out exot­ic fruits and veget­ables and, even bet­ter, buy­ing, pre­par­ing, and eat­ing them. […]

What are they learn­ing? How do I count the ways? Fine motor skills from chop­ping gar­lic. Multi-task­ing from sautéing veget­ables in olive oil. (Case in point is their start­ling real­iz­a­tion that you can­’t just leave a sauce­pan unat­ten­ded; this skill requires the need to over­come any tend­en­cies for ADD.) They’ve honed their organ­iz­a­tion and math skills, prac­ticed quick think­ing, and stretched to devel­op some ori­gin­al ideas. […] And, best of all, my kids are actu­ally eat­ing and enjoy­ing copi­ous veget­ables and a vari­ety of oth­er health­ful and exot­ic foods.

The lat­ter art­icle also notes that a strong neg­at­ive cor­rel­a­tion has been found between the amount of tele­vi­sion watched and hap­pi­ness. This does not sur­prise me.

Our Fascination with Cookbooks

Cook­books are designed to help us attain the “ideal sug­ar-salt-sat­ur­ated-fat state” in our cook­ing while hid­ing that fact between the sautéing of onions and the reduc­tion of the sauce.

That won­der­ful pro­pos­i­tion comes from Adam Gopnik’s look at our long-stand­ing fas­cin­a­tion with cook­books, and how they are used in our homes.

The first thing a cadet cook learns is that words can become tastes, the second is that a space exists between what the rules prom­ise and what the cook gets. It is partly that the steps between […] are often more sat­is­fy­ing than the fin­ished cake. But the trouble also lies in the same good words that got you going. How do you know when a thing “just begins to boil”? How can you be sure that the milk has scorched but not burned? Or touch some­thing too hot to touch, or tell firm peaks from stiff peaks? How do you define “chopped”? […]

Gram­mars teach for­eign tongues, and the advant­age of [Mark Bittman’s] approach is that it can teach you how to cook. But is learn­ing how to cook from a gram­mar book—item by item, and by rote—really learn­ing how to cook? Does­n’t it miss the social context—the dia­logue of gen­er­a­tions, the com­mon­al­ity of the fam­ily recipe—that makes cook­ing some­thing more than just assem­bling cal­or­ies and nutri­ents? […]

[Con­ser­vat­ive polit­ic­al philo­soph­er Michael Oakeshot­t’s] much repeated point was that one could no more learn how to make good gov­ern­ment from a set of rules than one could learn how to bake a cake by read­ing recipe books. The cook­book, like the con­sti­tu­tion, was only the residue of a prac­tice. Even the most gram­mat­ic­al of cook­books dies without liv­ing cooks to illu­min­ate its prin­ciples.

My ideal cook­book: one that explains why cer­tain recipes work. Not a book on ‘gram­mar’, but a sci­ence book mixed with art.

And one final quote:

In cook­ing, the prim­al scene, or sub­stance, is salt, sug­ar, and fat held in max­im­um solu­tion with starch; add pro­tein as neces­sary, and fin­ish with caf­feine (cof­fee or chocol­ate) as desired. That’s what, suit­ably dis­guised in some decent dimen­sion of dressup, we always end up mak­ing.

The Evolutionary Role of Cooking

Cook­ing is “the evol­u­tion­ary change that under­pins all oth­ers” and is what makes us human, accord­ing to Richard Wrangham, Har­vard Uni­ver­sity. The the­ory: the pro­cess of cook­ing makes our food more digest­ible, free­ing up a huge amount of cal­or­ies that are then expen­ded on oth­er, more import­ant, activ­it­ies.

And with Homo sapi­ens, what makes the spe­cies unique in Dr Wrangham’s opin­ion is that its food is so often cooked.

Cook­ing is a human uni­ver­sal. No soci­ety is without it. No one oth­er than a few fad­dists tries to sur­vive on raw food alone. And the con­sump­tion of a cooked meal in the even­ing, usu­ally in the com­pany of fam­ily and friends, is nor­mal in every known soci­ety. Moreover, without cook­ing, the human brain (which con­sumes 20–25% of the body’s energy) could not keep run­ning. Dr Wrangham thus believes that cook­ing and human­ity are coev­al.

via Link Banana