No Recipes {Food as Interior Knowledge}

I think part of the last century – and the marvelous modernizations that have come with it – has been about losing touch with our food. Now, I could go into a whole shpeal about what I think such distance does to our selves and our relationships, but I'll stick to cooking knowledge for now. In the last ninety years, people have spent less and less time around the land, around growing, around seasons, and around day-to-day food preparation. Such that, now, most of the time people cook solely from recipes. And I've seen a few people become a bit panicked when faced with cooking without a recipe. Like I took away their toilet in a moment of need. But recipes are all based in technique and awareness of ingredients, and in communicating that technique and awareness to another person. We don't have generations of parents, grand-parents, extended family nearby to communicate that knowledge. So TV cooks, cookbooks, online videos, and live demonstrations have taken the place of hands-on tutoring. Which is such a relief. At least there's still some system in place, even if it isn't a relationship-based one. Still, this results in a clinical communication of knowledge, one that reduces ingredients to numbers and technique to step-by-steps. 

I love cookbooks. I love watching internet videos. Because I read the information, process it, watch someone do it, and experiment on my own. But I don't continuously cook from recipes, because when I read a cookbook or a recipe, I'm looking for what the person did to the ingredients, how they were treated, or I'm looking for the techniques used to cook or slice or chill something. And I cross match those methods and techniques with other recipes, looking for patterns. Looking for the constants: how to blanch broccoli so it always comes out crisp-tender, how to roast a pork loin so the outside forms a beautiful crust and the inside is perfect pink, how to create a custard ice cream base that sets up with the ideal consistency, etc. Once I understand how each ingredient–vegetable, meat, fruit, legume, grain...–likes to be treated, I can consistently prepare it in a myriad of dishes. Once I master each technique, I can apply it at any meal. Then I don't need a shelf full of cookbook because the knowledge no longer exists outside of me; it is inside my muscles, hands, and mind. It becomes an interior knowledge that I carry constantly, ready to share or use at any moment.