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My journey with food

Discussion in 'Se Ecglast' started by Taylor, Oct 1, 2014.

  1. Taylor

    Taylor Professional Craftsman Founding Member

    The first time I was allowed to use a knife and touch a stove to make something myself, I was 7 years old. My mother got out the step stool, and taught me how to make chili. I did this once a week, and then started branching out from there. I realized I could use the same spices (toned down) to do taco meat, and then started learning new flavors and dishes.

    Well, our tastes change as we get older, and I started experimenting more and more in the kitchen. I was pretty good at screwing up a new recipe pretty badly, and there are definitely lessons I will never forget during that time. I was enthralled by this "alchemy" that could be used to create flavors and dishes, and in my younger days, I would usually over complicate things in an effort to give them depth. I'll add a confession here as well, and say that my range of flavors was pretty one note as well. Most of the spices I used at that time were chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, and paprika. If it existed outside of those, then the only time I saw it, was on the dish of someone else. The thing that I learned most of all from this period, is that: even though you use the same spices over and over, by adjusting the amounts of each, that single note can take on different tones.

    The next big thing in my journey with food happened while I was going to college and cooking full time. One of the professors I had for Thermodynamics started talking about how food was affected by heat. I remember him talking about how high heat browned meat, but there was also a correlation between the higher the heat and the more it squeezed the meat to force liquid from it. I started to really think about how I was applying the heat to what I was cooking, and the end result. At the same time, I was also cooking for a little deli inside of one of the hotels here. I learned, aside from not wanting to cook professionally, how to reproduce results. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate working in the kitchen, but I found people's expectations change when they pay for food. Instead of cooking my food, I was stuck just thinking about cook times for what each customer ordered, and the logistics of getting everything out at the same time. It's a fun puzzle, but it took away from being able to really explore my own direction. Money played a part as well, since for a while, I couldn't even afford to be in a place with a kitchen.

    With a different direction to earn money, my food journey took a different path as well. Now I was able to buy whatever I wanted, and go nuts. I picked up different cook books, learned new techniques, spices, flavor profiles, and got back to what I truly love about cooking. It's one big grand experiment, taking notes on what I experience, constantly getting better at bringing a creation in my head to life. Once I got this far, I started thinking more about it in the "experiment" terms, and thought, "the better the tools and ingredients, the better my results." It also helped having a friend that just got through with culinary school moving to the area. We exchanged ideas, challenged each other with random ingredients from the store, and grew in terms of just tasting new dishes.

    Now, I'm just trying to simplify things even more. Trying to appreciate the ingredient for what it is, while subtly adding flavors to compose a complete dish. I find the seasons play a bigger role in what I cook now as well, and while I may not use any measuring devices, my actions are much more precise and focused. I'm still learning as I go, and am appreciative that I'm making more and more edible things. I'm excited for what is to come, eating more food, and discovering those little secrets in the next bite.

    On a side note, I can't leave out my dad for his interest that sparked my passion for BBQ. It is invaluable to be able to get hands on testing with different BBQ setups, and gain insight from his experience.

    I would love to hear your journey. What you've learned. How you view it all. Especially your experiences. Thanks for reading my rambling :)
  2. larrybard

    larrybard Founding Member

    Nothing nearly as interesting here, but thanks much for sharing your story.
  3. WarrenB

    WarrenB Contributor

    Nice insight there. My food journey is only just beginning really at the age of 39, I have always cooked but only basic meals to feed people, but since I have joined the knife forums I have been a lot more interested in preparing more challenging dishes, nothing to the standard of some of stuff posted on here though:D
    But I am enjoying the whole experience a lot more, from sharpening my knives to practicing my knife skills and then actually planning and cooking dishes, hopefully I will have a few plates that I can post on the fora with pride in the future.
  4. What a great post!

    Myself as well. I've always been a 'good' cook...people like the food I make for the most part it seems, and some of it's really tasty in my opinion. But since joining the online kitchen knife world in order to learn the proper use (in minute detail) of the knives I make, I've found the quality of my meals is improving steadily. I don't know that I will ever make dishes of a level to post here...but I do know that my mouth sure appreciates all of your input, lol.
  5. apicius9

    apicius9 Founding Member

    Great post, thanks. My 'story' is much less interesting, but here is the short of it:

    - My mother's cooking when I grew up was what I could call 'solid' - good but not very adventurous - and my Grandma's fare was very basic country cooking (think poor farmer instead of opulent meals). Going out for a pizza was a rare treat before my teen years, eating at Greek or Yugoslavian places was an adventure.
    - I never had much interest in cooking when I lived at home. In my teens I hung out a lot with friends, often staying the nights after drinking beer, talking how to change the world, or because it was closer to school from there anyway... On these late evenings, my friends started sending me into the kitchen to make something to eat - that's how I got interested. Roaming through other peoples' fridges and pantries to whip up something edible. That's also when I started buying the occasional cook book.
    - Since people liked what I made, it was easy to continue getting into this, so more cooking, experimenting, and paying more attention to food on my frequent travels as a young adult. While at the university, we started with groups of friends to regularly get together and cook (and taste wine) - some of these groups went over 15 years, always more about the 'cooking together' rather than the 'formal dinner' settings. But since they were mostly at my place, I had a little more input ;)
    - Much less cooking after I moved to Honolulu; much smaller circle of friends, many of whom are either not much into food or difficult (allergic vegans...), and it is much more convenient here to pick up food somewhere. Actually, going to an Asian hole-in-the-wall for food is often also cheaper than buying groceries. I do miss the cooking, but find myself often too tired after working 2+ jobs.

    So, never had professional exposure (and my attitude towards the kitchen pros fluctuates between admiration for the skill and dedication and pity for the work conditions), dabbled in a lot of different 'cuisines' without becoming proficient in either of them, enjoy and appreciate a good meal - and convinced I can recognize one when I taste it - just wish I had more opportunities to play around in the kitchen myself again.


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