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post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Wasn't sure where to post this, but I've been seeing a disturbing pattern here in the admittedly short time I've been visiting.

I see so many people arguing about what *should* be. One crust vs. two crusts in a pot pie; THE way to make coq au vin, etc. I would respectfully remind everyone that cooking is about science and artistic interpretation. There are very few "shoulds" in the kitchen. There are plenty of folks out there who are intimidated enough as it is without some folks trying to tell them how things MUST be. Please let's be supportive of each other and applaud each others' efforts.

I think that asking/answering questions and offering advice is exactly why we all come here, but I feel like folks sometimes try and show each other up with their superior knowledge. Ask 10 chefs how they make their chicken stock, and you'll get 10 different answers. And that's okay. Let's just all relax and have fun in the kitchen. :lips:

Any thoughts on this?
Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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post #2 of 11
Please don't be put off. Remember that there are schools out there that insist that their way is the One Right Way. And then their graduates get hired in a real restaurant (if they're lucky) and have to learn someone else's One Right Way. And another One Right Way at their next gig. And so on.

I let people have their "shoulds" because I realize that they're theirs but don't have to be mine. But:rolleyes: if they get really rude, report 'em and we'll deal with 'em. :rolleyes:
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hi, Suzanne:)

Good point! Yes, I have been a professional pastry chef, and I've worked in professional kitchens and have had to do things "the right way," but I think that when we post to the general cooking forums, which are mostly populated by home cooks of differing comfort levels in the kitchen, that we should be more supportive and offer suggestions, not dictate The Right Way. Sorry for that very long sentence!

And I'm not completely put off, or I wouldn't have bothered posting:look:

I think this is a wonderful place for people to come and share.

Would love to hear what others think.
Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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post #4 of 11
Hi Jfield.
I have to agree with you. The idea is to cook and to enjoy food, and however we enjoy it is right, by definition.

I gu8ess it's easy to fall into the "right way" mentality, though, because some things just don;t work, and it only frustrates the person trying to cook if they do it the wrong way - e.g. if you dissolve your yeast in too hot water, you'll kill it, if you make your pie crust with warm butter it will probably come out a greasy mess, if you beat the muffins too much after adding the flour they'll be dry and hard with tunnel-like holes in them.

Then there is authenticity. If you want to make an authentic italian dish, or chinese dish, or whatever dish, it has to be made in a certain way. That doesn;t mean that making it a different way can be worse. Even traditional recipes are as they are because someone at some point, invented them. So if you want to make spaghetti alle vongole, you will not use cheese or butter. But who's to say that you can't make spaghetti with clams that does use cheese or butter and make it taste good? It may be a great recipe, but it will certainly not be a traditional authentic spaghetti alle vongole, so it would make sense to say that this is not the "right" way to make it.

So i think cooks can begin to think there is only one good way to make everything.

Then on top of that, cooking has recently become somewhat snobby, a little like wine choosing - it's easy to fall into the mentality that choosing the "right" wine, or cooking something the "right" way is proof that we are better in some way, the in group, those that know, while the others don;t know, and we are somehow superior for it.

I think it's like the difference between having good manners and being well-versed in etiquette. Many who are big on etiquette are mainly concerned with showing that they are superior to others, (those who don;t know which fork to use, or how to put a napkin back on the table) but those who actually have good manners in a real sense are more interested in making others feel comfortable, even if they don;t know which fork to use!
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Good points, all, siduri!

There is a real difference between the science of learning tried and true methods, techniques and ingredient functions (so you don't kill your yeast and so your crusts end up flaky, etc) and the art of cooking. To me, authentic flavor profiles are what make a dish. A recipe is just someone's version of a dish that has been written down and codified. In a way, having a recipe is like having a song on a CD. Even though the band evolves after recording a song, the fans only want to hear the CD version in concert, even years after the recording was made. I often think this must frustrate the artists--being forced back into a 1987 version of themselves in 2009.

I do think that everyone should learn sound techniques and what flavors sort of naturally "go" together, but beyond that, I think that improvisation has always been at the heart of cooking, first out of necessity (how can I make this hard bread and cheese edible? Fondue!) and later, just for fun (what goes on at Alinea, for example).

Thanks for the dialog. I propose a new motto: "Great food for the people; no snobbishness necessary":chef:
Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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post #6 of 11
Siduri, no butter in linguini a vongole? Well then I've been doing it wrong. Everything tastes better with butter! Would love to hear your recipe though.

Also I need to know! How does one place their napkin on the table at the end of dinner?

I often do things the wrong way because I mean to. My recipe for moussaka calls for bechamel made with a quart of milk. I put in 2. I may put in 3 next time so what? Yea yea the ratio is all wrong but by golly I want to eat enough bechamel to feed a village. My bolognese sauce should traditionally have whole milk added to it and I put... none!

And whenever faced with instructions in a recipe that calls for a certain amount of grated parmesan I ignore completely and dump it all in :bounce:

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #7 of 11
I so agree with you Jenni! I mean, I haven't especially noticed it in this forum - but when talking to people, I have come to the same conclusions.

The other day I was talking to someone who was explaining to me that garlic should always be crushed. That person doesn't know how to cook at all too. They probably just overheard that this is the way garlic was releasing the most flavor, and turned it into a strict rule.

Also, sometimes, it doesn't make sense to even discuss the authenticity of a recipe. One example: Cassoulet.

Once I was involved in a discussion and people started arguing whether or not a certain type of meat should be used over another when perparing Cassoulet, and both pretended their recipe was the authentic original recipe. Pretty funny when you know the story of Cassoulet: a Castle was being attacked, so they had to lock their doors for days, and finally they decided to ask everyone to bring whatever food they had, put everything in a big pot, and share the food. So do you really think they argued over which kind of meat they should use? I doubt it!! :)
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
French Fries--Great story! In the end, lots of great dishes turn out to be Stone Soup:crazy:

And Koukouvagia--keep it up: mountains of cheese and bechamel for everyone:chef:

Food of the people, people!!
Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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Jenni
Pastry Chef Online
Pastry Methods and Techniques
We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home.
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post #9 of 11
To cook something the right way. It does depend very much on who is saying that.

If you are working for a chef/cook, they are paying your wage - do it their way. The clientel generally look for and expect the same product when they order a dish, you've gotta produce it the same (the "right way") each and every time.

If its home cooking - enjoy the freedom of interpretation and do it your way, or your partners way/ childs way/ mothers/fathers/ guests way, depending on the politics, preferences and emotional states of those individuals on the day.

There are basic essentials that needs to be adhered to, e.g. don't serve raw chicken; a souffle needs to rise etc etc. All these myriad rules need to be the basis of "the right way". It's a base you start from, and if the freedom to vary it is there, that's the best part :)

Who says what the "right way" to raise a child is - they need love, affection, discipline, guidance, roof over their heads and food in their bellies, a decent education - but the number of variations that stem from this base is myriad.

What's the "right way" to mow a lawn - you start with the basics of having a lawn that's getting waaay too long, you have to get it shorter or you'll lose the dog, you need something to cut it with. The variations come in then - do you have someone to do it for you, what type of mower do you use, do you do it just side to side or do you do a fancy cross-hatch pattern?

Cook how you want when the opportunity arises - cooking evolves. Imagine if humankind had not evolved - we'd still be up in the trees and banging the rocks together (my apologies to anyone who still is :p )

DC
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #10 of 11
Hi koukouvagia,
i once had a great pasta with vongole on the amalfi coast. It tasted so good and buttery to me. When i asked the owner/cook of the restaurant if there was butter in it she looked offended and annoyed - butter! goodness no! only good olive oil goes in a fish dish!
I think she may have actually thought i was insulting her, saying she did it the "wrong way".

How i make it the dish is i soak the clams in salted water with some cornmeal to clean them, then i heat some oil in the pan with a few crushed garlic cloves, throw in the whole clams in their shells, and stir occasionally over high heat till they;re all opened. Then i remove all from the pan, and set aside. I hardly ever have wine on hand, but if i did, i would throw some white wine into the empty pot and boil down and add to the clams.
I add oil and more garlic and a hot pepper or two and start to slowly sautee it till the garlic is soft, and then add whole tomatoes (the tomato guy at the market i go to has special tomatoes that melt down with nicely and you use them with fish sauces but of course, i use canned ones if i don;t habve these) anjd salt. I let them cook a bit, squashing them. In about tenminutes, i return the clams and their liquor and the reduced wine if i have it to the pot and cook a minute, before pouring over the drained pasta.

as for the napkin, it depends on where you are.

My mother had an old emily post etiquette book, and i was so curious about it, sort of as an anthropological document, that i used to read it in high school - what is the lady's maid supposed to do for instance, or other strange things that were completely7 out of our world such as the "turning of the table" (like in the expression, he turned the tables on me") which was that you talked first to the person on your left (or was it right?) during a formal dinner, and then whenh the hostess decides that half the meal is over, she makes a point of turning noticeably to the right, and the whole table is supposed to turn to talk to the other person - crazy things like that, but also it made me understand that lots of "rules" are really simply ways to make life easier for your guests. The knives and forks are laid out so you start outside and work your way in, thye glass is at your right, where you can reach it (the 1930s didn't make allowances yet for lefties), and stuff like that. Etiquette was supposed to make people feel comfortable and no one to be left out (thus the turning of the tables )

Anyway, you are not supposed to fold your napkin after a meal, because that would presumably make it seem like the hostess was supposed to reuse it again. You are supposed to put it crumpled on the table so it is obviously used and therefore dirty.
On the other hand, when i came here i learned that in an italian home meal, you put your napkin back in your napkin ring or tie it or fold it in your own particular way, so it can be used several times and everyone can know whose napkin it is (the color of the ring, or the particular fold that each person uses to distinguish theirs).
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
post #11 of 11
I've always been interested in etiquette as it applies today, that's fascinating about the etiquette book. I have ventured to the emily post website now and then if I have specific questions. Maybe I'll start another thread about particular etiquette as it applies to americans, and people of other cultures.

Clam sauce, couldn't resist and I made my version last night. I'm not a big fan of red sauces but as long as the tomatoes are fresh and few I will give yours a shot Siduri. Mine began by washing the clams as you did, but without the addition of salt (doesn't that kill them?). In a pan I sweated some onions and garlic slivers in olive oil until soft and translucent. I added a little chili flakes too for a kick. I then added about a cup of vermouth and simmered on high to let the alcohol evaporate. I added the clams and covered the pot for about 5 minutes or so and removed them into a bowl as soon as they opened (nothing worse than a tough chewy clam). In the clam juice that was left in the pan I reduced it by a 1/3, added a tbsp of butter, and a handful of freshly chopped parsley, then seasoned it to taste. I then tossed the cooked linguini in. Served it in a bowl with the clams on top, freshly cracked pepper, and a little drizzle of evoo. Hubby does dances for this dish!

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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