Thinking Outside the Cookbook
By: Kelly Keenan Trumpbour
I’m not a recipe kind of girl. I consider myself more of an independent explorer of food preparation. This would explain why my first attempt at baking Chez Kelly cookies (at the age of seven) resulted in bacon-flavored mounds of flour and sugar despite no pork products going into the mix. They were also dyed green and pink – what’s not to like?
I guess recipes always reminded me of the lab experiments in chemistry class, and I did not like chemistry class. Literature and art appealed to me, probably because I could debate the merits of a work instead of having it blow up.
So with basic stubbornness standing between me and regular, edible meals, I gave in and took a cooking class. Yes, I know, I could have cracked open a cookbook and just followed the directions. Not appealing. If I was going to be convinced that food preparation was an artistic endeavor, then I wanted to know what enchanted the chefs who loved it so much. Without this knowledge, the pizza takeout number would continue to eat away at my monthly cell phone minutes.
I took a beginner’s class, and to my delight, there were no recipes in sight when I entered the kitchen. In fact the class was anchored in basic cooking know-how. We went back, way back, to the flavors your taste buds pick up. I learned that a key to a really amazing entrée is a balance of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour flavors. When your taste buds only detected one or two, then it was time to add something different. And just about anything could go into the pot. Hence, I began my adventure of cooking roasts with coffee beans, potatoes with peanut butter and chilis with chocolate. I learned to respect a recipe not just for the proportions of ingredients it offered, but for the pairings of flavors it recommended.