I have been, as long as I can remember, drawn to creative ventures. I've painted, printed, done graphics, and mostly photography since I was twelve. (far too many years ago) A passion for food came to me in my mid thirties. (not that long ago-but getting further into the past every day)
The number of artists and writers drawn to cooking is well known. For the possibly best known example I direct your attention to Monet's Table (Claire Jones,Simon and Schuster,1989), and the excellent, Just Before Dark, by Jim Harrison (Houghton Mifflin, 1991). For a less glutonous attitude about food, but still an obsession with it, I suggest the Daybooks of Edward Weston.
By no means is this section of my web site intended as a cooking course or a cookbook. Recipes there will be, of course. But cooking isn't just about recipes. Good cooking is about a mindset, a process that can appeal to parts of ourselves we rarely get to spend any time with.
I remember quite clearly the very first time I actually cooked for an audience-the first time I entertained. It wasn't that long ago really-but it sure was an awful lot of recipes past. It was the first dish I learned to make well-a pasta sauce with poached salmon, dill, and cream. For a while that was the dish that everyone that visited got.
Eventually even I tired of that one. Somehow it didn't seem right to go back to chili and turkey stew after something like that. And that is how I came to my present state.
Then, of course, I began to collect the cookbooks, cookware and knives-especially the knives. I remember the trembling in my hands the first time I paid more than $50 for a single kitchen knife. Now, that seems like small potatoes.
When I can, I'll review food books I've come across, and maybe even a few movies.
Keeping Track of What You Do
I set out to learn as much as I could about cooking. Laboratory notebooks are a technique I've successfully used in photography for years, so I adapted the process to learning to cook. For this purpose I keep two notebooks.
This is a hardbound notebook that contains all of my favorite and staple recipes. Keeping them in one place makes life simpler-and the notebook travels with me with less hassle than a card file. Generally, a recipe will end up in this notebook if it makes a very good frist impression, if I have modified it from the pblished recipe, or if I've liked it enough to make it three times or more. There is also a section full of general notes and ideas to pursue.
OK, so this one really goes over the edge into compulsive behavior. I've been using a hardbound notebook for my grocery lists for the last few years. I begin by listing the recipes I plan to make in the margin-including the cookbook references if it's something I haven't tried before. Then, I list the ingredients I need to buy. The old lists actually help sometimes, by providing a reminder of recent successes or failures. There have been weeks when I simply repeated old lists to make things easy.
I have found that my weight has remained relatively steady, despite all the cooking I do, and my well-known preference for butter and cream. I think that I actually eat less when I'm doing the cooking. It is possible that I absorb the value of cooking to my soul through my skin, through scent and feel, and need remarkably little of it to fuel the machine.
You will have noticed, if you have read any of the articles I 've written, that I'm not overly concerned about "health food"-where that means various cellulose-enhanced products commonly sold as "organic", or representing the latest live-forever fad.
Some passages from Harrrison say it rather well:
Small Portions are for small and inactive people. When it was all the rage, I was soundly criticized for saying that cuisine minceur was the moral equivalent of the fox-trot. Life is too short for me to approach a meal with the mincing steps of a japanese prostitute.
"Sporting Food", Just Before Dark
Curiously, in both writing and cooking,you're a dead duck if you don't love the process. When you short-circuit or jump start the process in either, you end up with an imitation of your own or someone else's best efforts.
"Consciousness Dining", Just Before Dark