I heard a comedian on the radio the other day poke fun at a pizza franchise for introducing sandwiches; he noted that the enterprise had not yet nailed the pizza so why was it expanding a repertoire? That’s such a great point, really, especially when applied to dining out and cooking at home.
Look, so many chefs pride themselves on their creativity, but don’t know how to use salt and pepper properly, source second rate ingredients to cut costs, and come up with slogans like “sustainable,” “heirloom,” “artisanal,” and “organic” rather than identifying what deepens flavors.
And at home there is a desire among some cooks to try new recipes of foods that have not been tasted previously or are not well understood rather than trying to perfect about a dozen dishes, if you’re lucky, that are easy to prepare, relatively healthy, and are versatile enough to satisfy repeatedly. (Like gazpacho, a couple of good pasta dishes, a roast chicken, two or three fish dishes, etc.)
I’m reading Marcus Samuelsson’s lovely memoir, to inspire me in my latest endeavor to write about what it was to grow up Ethiopian in New Jersey, and I’m struck by his sensitivity to taste and his feel for ingredients. He doesn’t conjure, he respects. He doesn’t create, he appreciates. After all, how much can anyone understand of many ingredients in any situation?