Thursday, May 23, 2013

I Know, I Know!

I left you all hanging, didn't I?  Ranted and raved about some great culinary book I've started, made promises to talk about it, and then I didn't.

My apologies.  I had every intention of making remarks, but well, this book got in the way...

Image courtesy of St. John's Source
I'm at the library with the two younger Nelsons, and I have no intention of getting anything, except what my kids decide to check out.

But, I pass by the New Non-Fiction! section, and I am drawn to this book.  And yeah, I hardly every turn down the pull when it comes to a certain book.

So, now you know where I've been and what I've been up to.  Let's talk a little bit about the book I promised I would.

As a reminder, the book I've started is titled Ruhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook's Manifesto.  I don't really know much about Michael Ruhlman, but that he's collaborated with chefs like Thomas Keller, done an extensive amount of food writing, and made appearances on some Food Network shows (which puts me off at first, until I realized an appearance is way different from being in every single episode because it's your show).

The first chapter of this book is called "Think", and I think it's a pretty profound place to start.  With all the preprocessed, prepackaged, and precooked foods in our supermarkets, consumers don't think much about food.  Recipes and cookbooks produce a similar side effect.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love my cookbooks and I do follow recipes, but think about it, we're just following directions.  We're not doing much thinking at all, unless we stray from the recipe (which a good many of us do).  We don't stop much to consider reactions or processes of food and why the recipe says to do it a certain way.

Ruhlman implores us to begin doing just that.  He starts with an idea that is VERY familiar to me and my classmates - Mise en Place or Keeping Everything In Its Place.  It's what allows restaurants and home cooks alike to move effortlessly and efficient around their workspaces, and ultimately, put out a good product.

But he takes it one step further.  He says it's not only important to get yourself ready mentally for the culinary task at hand by thinking about what should be there, he says it's equally important to think what shouldn't be there.  Clutter, your car keys, garbage, etc.  If your workspace is a mess, so is your brain - and you're basically screwed then from the get-go.

This chapter was short, and really did not contain any new information...but it reinforced the importance for me of organizing, planning, and envisioning the entire process from start to finish.

One does not just simply walk into a kitchen and whip up good product.  Indeed.

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