Monday, March 5, 2012

Learn to cook? Cook to learn.

This post isn't about recipes. It's about what it really means to live and love the kitchen.

Cooking is a language just as intricate as English, Russian, Spanish, or even mathematics, computer programming, or ballroom dancing. It has grammar and syntax; it uses formulas, if/then loops, and particular movements and rhythms that come together in individual styles. 

True cooks sing; they speak two or three different languages, and they secretly play an instrument. They dance; they compulsively count the steps when they walk up and down stairs and they make up little songs that follow the beat of their knife-strokes on the cutting board. 

They have scarred hands, and maybe a slight limp from favoring one leg or the other during the long hours standing over a prep table. They have sore joints in their wrists, and Popeye-like forearms from whisking thick sauces and tossing heavy steel saute pans.

Cooking itself isn't hard; you just have to figure it out. You won't get calculus unless you've studied algebra first, so start small; make an omelet. Now, omelets aren't exactly easy if you want to get technical, but most people can make them almost instinctively.

If you take the raw eggs for that omelet, place them in a bowl over a double boiler, whisk in a teaspoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon of tarragon vinegar, some white pepper, and 3 tablespoons of boiling water; stir it until it thickens: you got yourself Hollandaise sauce.

Ok, so maybe there is a recipe in this post; I guess I just can't help it.


  1. I love hollandaise sauce,and this makes it sound easy enough to whip up on a Sunday morning for eggs Benedict, whether you planned ahead or not. How important is the tarragon vinegar - I have other vinegars, like white wine, white balsamic, etc, but no tarragon. Is it crucial to the flavor of the sauce?

    1. White wine vinegar will work just as well. All it really does is balance out the acidic side of the flavor profile and I like the earthy counterpoint that the tarragon brings. You can toss a few dashes of hot sauce in there too, for an extra zing!