Finding and Embracing Your Culinary Perspective
by Chris Robertson
Globalization is reflected in virtually every aspect of our daily lives. From the products we purchase, to the people with whom we do business, to the ease with which we can travel the world, to the immediacy of international news, virtually all corners of the earth are at our fingertips. In no arena is this more evident than in the world of food. While international cuisine has always been accessible in metropolises, options for sampling exotic gastronomical delights are now available in smaller cities and towns around the country. Plus, an entire cable channel – the Food Network – has exposed Americans to cuisines from around the globe, while other television and media outlets tout the appeal of culinary exploration, both in terms of dining out and of dining in.
While interest in international cuisine – and cooking in general – has never been higher, it’s often difficult to make the leap between what we see, read, and hear about intriguing ingredients and techniques and the meals we prepare at home. The truth is that, when it comes to cooking, many of us get into a rut and often fall back on preparing the kinds of dishes we ate while we were growing up. These aren’t necessarily comfort foods – those we reach for when we yearn for solace – but rather the recipes we make out of habit.
How do you move out of the kitchen doldrums and into imaginative and contemporary cuisine? Although it might feel like a monumental leap, it really isn’t that difficult. Spicing up your home cooking is simply a matter of finding and embracing your culinary perspective. That may seem like a pretentious quest, but it really boils down to three things: exploration, investigation, and experimentation.
Exploring the Possibilities
When it comes to cuisine, the first step is to expand your horizons. There is literally a world of flavors to explore. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to dine out at restaurants that specialize in dishes from a variety of cultures, it’s time to dive in. Find that Jamaican diner on the other side of town and sample their jerk chicken. Go to the Greek deli and taste an authentic gyro. Dive into curries at your local Indian restaurant. Taste the delights of true Tuscan bruschetta or Spanish paella. Explore sushi in all its incarnations. Splurge on a meal that exemplifies why the French are known for their culinary mastery.
The process of sampling other cuisines is partly a means of finding your own culinary perspective, but is also an end unto itself. Think of it as a wondrous journey that can last for a lifetime. You don’t have to break the bank to dine out every week, but when you are going to a restaurant, make a conscious choice to try something new. Through your dining adventures, you’ll gain an understanding of the incredible variety of ingredients and food preparation techniques that are at your disposal as you develop your own style of cooking.
Investigating Ingredients and Techniques
As you discover the foods and cooking styles that appeal to your palate, you’ll undoubtedly want to delve deeper. There is a wealth of resources in a variety of different mediums that will help you in this investigative stage of your journey. So, grab your magnifying glass, pull on your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker cap, and dig in!
In the offline world, there are literally thousands of cookbooks that beckon. From classic books like “The Joy of Cooking” that both explain ingredients and techniques as well as provide recipes, to books that offer highly specific interpretations of a certain cuisine or ingredient, cookbooks serve to fill in your background knowledge and help you understand the approaches to take when cooking in a style that appeals to you.
Similarly, there are many magazines that focus on the world of food and cooking. From “Bon Appétit” to “Chile Pepper,” from “Chocolatier” to “Everyday with Rachel Ray, from “Louisiana Cookin’” to “Cooking Light,” there’s a magazine that speaks to virtually every culinary predilection.
There are also myriad television shows that are designed to both educate and entertain. The Food Network is a great place to watch talented celebrity chefs create amazing dishes and share their secrets. “Iron Chef America,” with its secret ingredients and frenetic pace, can showcase the familiar and obscure ways to use common foods like zucchini and more exotic fare, such as squid ink or tilapia. Watching the chefs in action helps you pinpoint trends in food (coconut milk is showing up in all kinds of dishes, and quail eggs always seem close at hand), kitchen tools (mandolines and immersion blenders are the rage), and up-and-coming techniques (using agar agar as a gelatin and the whole field of molecular gastronomy). Even “Iron Chef America’s” judging process can be an eye-opener. The judges’ articulation of the interplay of flavors and textures, as well as the ways flavors can unfold in the mouth, present a whole new way to think about and evaluate the dishes you eat and prepare.
When it comes to online resources, the options are truly limitless. There are wonderful websites that provide crucial information on the basics, as well as those that delve into complex dishes and techniques. For example, YourProduce.com (http://www.yourproduce.com) provides a wealth of vital information about fruits and vegetables – both those you eat regularly and those you may never have heard of. You can find out which fruits and vegetables are in season at any given time, how to select the best produce, nutritional information, and other useful food preparation and produce tidbits.
Other useful food websites provide wonderful information on a whole myriad of food-related products. Some, like Majon International's Food Marketplace, act as a clearinghouse for sites that offer items like wild rice, barbecue sauces, and artisan butter. For a comprehensive listing of other content articles regarding food, food preparation and cooking visit: http://www.majon.com/articles/Food/index.html
Your Holmesian investigation will provide you with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the tastes, ingredients, and techniques that intrigue you. Ultimately, people and information you encounter along the way will inspire you to take your knowledge and put it to use in the kitchen.
Cooking up a Storm
Your explorations and investigations will help hone your culinary point of view, but will ultimately lead you right back to your kitchen, where you can express yourself through cooking. When you think of food and cooking as both a pleasure and an adventure, you open yourself to limitless possibilities. Whether you whip up new recipes you’ve discovered, or begin to concoct your own creations, your fresh approach will unarguably be your own.
Finding and embracing your unique culinary perspective doesn’t mean enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu or attending the Culinary Institute of America. Exploring, investigating, and experimenting with cooking will enrich your life, and forever kick mealtime doldrums to the curb.
Chris Robertson is a content writer for Majon International. Majon International is a well know internet marketing and search engine marketing company. They are widely regarded as one of the MOST POPULAR marketing and advertising companies on the internet.