On Cooking

There are a bunch of valid styles of cooking. For example, there’s the Important Fine Artist approach. We’ve got a friend who’s great at that- her meals always have a huge number of ingredients, take days to prepare with lots of fussy steps, are assembled to produce visual “Wow!” reactions, and actually taste quite good. One expects to be served things like “Roasted haunch of New Zealand hare, wrapped with pancetta and preserved kumquat zest, resting on a bed of hand-carved orzo risotto flecked with rum-soaked currants, with a garnish of deep-fried sage chiffonade, and napped with a tomato, roasted red pepper, mustard, saffron, and long-simmered garlic reduction sauce, with a side of julienned flat beans and celeriac arranged in the shape of the Armenian National Seal.” One doesn’t know whether to eat or genuflect. Was it Mendelssohn that was accused of, “Too many notes!”?

Another approach is the Ethnic Purist. Every cuisine outside of The Original Cuisine is garbage, suitable only for the dog. The food needs to be EXACTLY made the way it is in its native land, using EXACTLY the proper cookware, otherwise it’s prostitution. We have some sympathy for The Purist, but draw the line at things like a vindaloo infested with native insects or only eating Santa Fe cuisine when the fat used is rendered from the spinal cord of a local wild goat. It’s CRAZY not to adapt local ingredients into imported cuisines. Authenticity is a fine thing in its place. Literally.

Even worse is the Health Nazi. There are many species within this genus, and they often overlap: Vegans (hey, you don’t like it here, go back to your native star), Fat Haters, MSG Milquetoasts, Frankenfood Fearers, and the latest craze of nutbags who are afraid to heat their food much past body temperature. The one saving grace is the most numerous Health Nazi species, vegetarians, is mainly composed of individuals who hate good food in the first place, so we needn’t consider them here. Nor anywhere else, for that matter.

The Stupid approach is simple and catholic. We like a large variety of food styles, but keep coming back to those dishes which, regardless of origin, are simple in concept and flavor, highlighting the quality of the ingredients. A tomato salad should taste like wonderfully ripe tomatoes. A pizza should be uncluttered and direct (and preferably baked in a wood-burning oven). The height of fine eating is something like a hunk of superb Reggiano parmesan drizzled with a hundred-year-old balsamic, or some home-made pappardelle dressed with butter and shaved truffles, or some just-picked snap peas quickly stir-fried with just a hint of soy sauce and sesame oil. Though we have recipes here, our absolute favorite stuff is the kind where you don’t need one, it’s so simple.