One of my favorite cookbooks is the Bouchon cookbook by Thomas Keller. Bouchon is a bistro-style restaurant out in Cali, but, as all things Keller, probably the best bistro you’ll ever go to.
He has short sections throughout the book called “The Importance of”, such as “The Importance of the Vinaigrette” or “The Importance of Onion Soup”, which delve into the mindset behind such things, rather than the step-by-step way to make them.
I’ve found that I love cookbooks, but I hate recipe books. Those giant tomes (I’m sure there are small ones to) that do little but list ingredients and method and let the reader be. I’d much rather pick up a cookbook and feel as if I’m being engaged by an author and a cook, instead of flipping to the index, finding a recipe, and going straight to the stove. I like to sit for a minute, do some page-turning, and, when I strike something that sounds good, get up and start chopping.
For those of you who prefer the standardized-test version of recipes, we’ll post them here. To start. And, even then, maybe not really. We may not measure in grams or quarter-teaspoons. We may forget to mention a step here, or go off on tangents about variations, or music, or something we heard on the television while making dinner (by the way: Obama peace prize…wow).
Cooking is not done with your eyes on a page, but with your eyes on a stove, your nose in a pot, and your tongue always the littlest bit burnt. Read the recipe, and certainly glance back at it two or three times while you’re prepping or to double-check the ingredients, but use your mind as well. Remember meals you’ve had, flavors you’ve tried separately but always thought might go well together. It’s like learning to play an instrument, first working off a sheet, then being able to piece together on your own some songs you’ve learned in the past.