Tuesday, June 19, 2012

For posterity. . .

. . .What is the place of mysticism in the life of the atheist?  It's there, but where does it go, or where does it reside?

Maybe more on this later.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When I cook. . .

I usually have some idea in mind of what the meal might be; my habitual meals tend to be Asian in nature (and very regularly tend to be some sort of curry).  But I rarely have a specific recipe in mind until I put the first pan on the stove.  But there is a strong chance that it will involve garlic.

The kitchen is one of the most common areas for me to practice improvisation.  There are others, of course. The performance venue is a given, and so, too, is the sales floor.  The sexual act is also one, but as this isn't exactly an active area, I think it's best to leave that aside.  That is a different sort of improvisation, anyway, though an important one.

I have a peculiar style in the kitchen that always seems to surprise people:  I almost never measure quantities.  When constructing a soup, for instance, the general mode of operation is "a splotch of oil that is that big, twice as much garlic as most people I know, not quite this whole onion, and go".  Amounts are measured by how big it looks in the pan, or the physical feel of how much I've shaken out of this jar, or whether I decide to use the entire vegetable or just most of it.  It's a method that necessarily involves involvement with the process of the cooking; I am usually tasting things as they simmer and cook up until the moment it's done, adjusting on the fly as necessary.

Recipes do get used, especially when I am trying something for the first time, or when I am trying to remember the order of operations of a dish.  Conjuring a korma from nothing would be impossible without at least a general understanding of the spice content, or what oils to use, or whether this recipe has tomatoes or potatoes or milk or cream or cardamom or whether it's prepared in two pans or baked or seared or broiled. One must know the structure.

But once I've made a recipe once or twice, and sometimes before I've even made it through the recipe once, I begin to experiment, to try new things, to play around and see what else I can do.  This is often practical, especially when I am converting a recipe to a vegetarian cuisine--I won't use steak, but maybe this combination of mushrooms and eggplant will work instead--but other times it is simply the notion of curiousity.  What happens when I add this?  I'm not particularly fond of that, so perhaps this instead?

Sometimes the meal doesn't work.  But it usually does.  And sometimes magic actually does slip out of a pot onto a plate, and you can see just how beautiful it looks.

A friend recently said something about not cooking because she was single, and cooking for one is a bit of a drag.  As she said that, I found myself thinking about how I don't really know how to cook for one.  I can make a sandwich, of course, and prepare food specifically for myself to eat.

But I don't know how to cook for one, anymore:  I just end up with too much, instead.  I cook for more.