Wednesday, May 7, 2003

What if you want to learn how to cook, not how to follow a recipe?

Seriously. The vast majority of cookbooks teach you how to follow a recipe, not how to cook.

Me, I’ve always enjoyed cooking. It’s a creative process that results in something that you, personally, can enjoy, pretty much immediately. And, you can share it with your friends without them saying, “Gee, thanks…” while they look at you like you’re a growling Rottweiler.

But the cooking establishment seems to assume that, whenever you enter the kitchen, you become a robot following a specific set of instructions. “Use exactly two and one-thirds teaspoons of sesame oil; and no more!” And that means that most home chefs just follow recipes.

I’ve recently begun cooking from a book titled How to Cook Without a Book, which focuses on teaching the novice chef the principles of a dish rather than specific instances of that dish. So, for example, I’ve learned how to make a good omelette (using any ingredients) and how to make stir fry. Now, if I want to make an omelette, I can just make one with any ingredients that are on hand. If I want something more exotic, all I need are a few vegetables, chopped meat, and some sauce, and I can make some stir fry.

This is a good thing. I’m learning a lot, and I feel like I understand the dish itself rather than a specific implementation of it.

Why can’t more things in life be that way? We aren’t all machines. We need to know the why.

In other news, Stephen e-mailed, asking why I don’t invite all my anime friends to join an existing anime club. That’s a good question. Here are my reasons:

  1. I don’t wanna. I just don’t like the idea. But why?
  2. Well, it involves a certain loss of control on my part. I’d be justone part of a group, rather than the head of the club. Not a noble reason, but a reason.
  3. It means that me and my friends would be lost in a (comparatively) biggroup. I don’t like the idea of us being assimilated.
  4. I want to get to know these half-dozen friends better. I suppose Ishould call them “friends and acquiantances;” most of them, I’ve only metonce. If we were to join a big anime club, we wouldn’t be able to get toknow each other very well.
  5. As a group gets larger, it becomes harder and harder for the needs ofeveryone in that group to be met. This group had enough trouble decidingon anime to watch when we last met together. If we were to join a club ofseveral dozen people, some people just wouldn’t be interested in what’sshown and would drop out.
  6. I’d like to start a club myself, just to see what it’s like.

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