Saturday, February 17, 2007

Experimenting in the kitchen

Something in Season has an interesting post about how to experiment with recipes. A lot of his advice centers around following recipes carefully, which helps learn to predict how things will go, I suppose. It's interesting to me because it's pretty much opposite from my philosophy... I personally follow the "banana flop philosophy" by Helium (aka God around Hippycore HQ) in my favorite cookbook, Soy, Not Oi!, although ironically(?) I have yet to make the banana flop recipe.
So what kind of a vegan are you, having to read a book to cook or prepare food! You are a pitiful person. You have been socialized. You think that 1/2 cup less of this or 1/2 cup more of that will render your dish inedible. You think that a written recipe is the optimum balance of the ingredients... you are bummed. [The banana flop recipe does not include exact measurements, temperatures, times, etc]

Natural foods have the wonderful property of being able to be blended with each other in any manner or proportion and still always give a minimum total nutritional value equal to the sum of their parts, so nutritionally speaking you can't go wrong. Different combinations will bring different tastes and different textures; a wonderful array of tastebud experiences that will bring you joyful, romantic, painful, funny, gratifying, and humiliating memories... the merging of the soul and the pallet.

So my friend, break free from the rigid limit of your food habits and turn your kitchen into a playground of creativity... Welcome to the BANANA FLOP philosophy!

Since reading this, I have rarely worked from recipes unless it's something mysterious, like NYC, a grain-to-liquid ratio, something Chinese, or ... anything that's to be baked. I'm also generally pretty happy with how my cooking turns out.

In my case, I USED to rigidly follow recipes, and eventually came to the conclusion that cooking doesn't have to be an exact science. Sure, there are some things that can easily be over- or undercooked, but most things provide leeway in terms of cooking time, ingredients, etc. A friend came over a while back with a semi-improvised persimmon bread which included several whole grains (and was quite awesome, in my opinion!)... I think the key to success is to combine flavors you like, and if any are especially distinctive, don't feature more than one.

Update 2/18/2007: Inspired from writing this post, I made the banana flops this morning. Everyone should have a copy of Soy, Not Oi!

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