Improv at the Second Kitchen
I am a slave to recipes.
I’ve cooked enough by now to avoid that numb terror you first feel upon picking up a knife (or a spatula, or a pan, or a…). I make certain foods, like guacamole, with confidence and ease and nary a glance at a slip of paper. But for the most part, if I haven’t cooked a dish at least a dozen times, I still clutch a recipe and God help us all if I vary from its instructions.
Everyone knows baking is a science, but for me all cooking is–and recipes are its immutable laws. If I add more than exactly a quarter-teaspoon of pepper, the house may explode. If I substitute powdered garlic, the planet cracks in half. Many times during my cooking adventures, my brother has sighed, strolled on in, tasted whatever I was convinced ‘d destroyed, and added a pinch of this or that to make it edible.
How do you people do it?
Take last night’s dinner (and today’s hastily-eaten lunch, hence the empty bowl): gazpacho-based tomato sauce with meatballs and angel hair. We started with a big jug of thin, cold soup leftover from a recent family party; my mom puttered about in the kitchen for a while, opened a few jars, and when dinner hit the table the stuff had magically become a real good, totally different, totally hearty sauce. When I asked her what she’d done, the answers seemed so obvious: boiled off some of the water. Added some crushed tomatoes. Smashed in some meatballs. And yet, had I been in front of the stove, I would’ve stared glumly at the gazpacho for a while before cooking up a side dish and dining on cold soup.
It’s a long–and hopefully delicious–road ahead.
-Jim should probably start filing these recipes