Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Defines Your Cooking Style?

My sister and I were talking about a close friend of mine, and she asked if I thought my friend was a good cook.

"Yes," I said. "She's a great cook, but her style of cooking is remarkably different from mine. If she and I make the exact same thing, hers will taste totally different. Her style isn't something I could replicate."

"What do you mean?" my sister asked. "How?"

"I guess when I cook, things taste fresh, bright, vibrant. I tend to make things that come together quickly," I said. "But I also rush things. I get impatient, so I like to make food that comes together quickly. But my friend usually cooks things that take longer. She's really good at coaxing out deep flavors from a longer cooking process. She makes an incredible soup every winter, and a killer roast chicken. She also makes anything with long-cooking grains taste amazing."

Later, I thought about it more and realized that I also tend to use high-acid ingredients, like vinegar and fresh lemon juice, late in the cooking process to further make flavors pop. And even when it comes to baking, I'm more likely to look for recipes that can be taken from start to finished in an hour. While I have cooked and baked plenty of recipes that take days rather than minutes to make, they're not recipes that I naturally I gravitate toward.

I think that even very experienced and avid home cooks don't spend a lot of time thinking about their style of cooking. They usually think more in terms of proficiency level. Either you have or your haven't made souffles yet. Either you do or you don't feel comfortable working with gelatin. I never thought much about my own style of cooking until I was asked about someone whose style is radically different from my own. It was only then that I could see what made my cooking taste the way it does.

What defines your cooking style? Have you ever thought much about it? I'm sure there are other factors that influence one's cooking style, from the base ingredients people choose to what kitchen tools you consider basic and every day. For example, I don't own a wok or a mandoline, so I'm not making a huge array of dinners that would come together in a snap if I had. And if you do use a mandoline regularly, you probably also use quick and fast heat because all your ingredients will be sliced thin and won't hold up to longer cooking.

2 comments:

  1. I have long-confined myself to one pot meals when cooking at home.

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  2. I'm also a big one-potter. And I think my cooking is "clean" if that makes sense. Not a lot of ingredients because I like to taste each one. Very little meat. A lot of variety in the grains/seeds (quinoa, bulghur, amaranth) and mostly produce that's in-season. In Buffalo that means for fun summer and fall cooking.

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