I love to mix and play when I cook. I sense. I intuit. I create. I mix and match as surely as an artist plays with colours on a palette and a poet plays with words. It has to “feel” right. It has to smell right. It has to have an energy that is right. Cooking takes me to another world.
Cooking is an act of giving. To yourself. To others. It is a way of nurturing yourself and others. Of keeping yourself and others healthy. Of spoiling, of gluing, of making them happy. What it is not (to me) is scientific.
Yes I know that there is a whole heap of science that goes on. (I have a science background.) I know that this reacts with this to create something else. But when I am in the kitchen, it is more an inner sense that guides, not an outer intellectual knowledge.
You can tell who uses which approach. The former touch and feel their food. They mix by hand. There is flour on their hands, under their nails, in their hair. They smell the food. They know. How do they know? (shrugs shoulders.) How do I know exactly how much salt this will take, without tasting. How much crushed rosemary to sprinkle. How much water to mix with that? How to tweak, adjust, play. Never knowing exactly what the end result will be, except fantastic.
The intellectual approach is to weigh, count, sort, measure. Mix with implements. Tell you exactly what speed to put the mixer on. Know to the second how long to let something cook. Know the outcome in advance. How many stirs to the left, how many to the right. Expect perfection. Try again and again and again until it is right. Perfect. Repeat exactly. Wonderful.
There is nothing wrong with this approach. Well, I use it myself in the other parts of my life and my work. BUT in the kitchen, it is not me. Well there I am curled up with this bible of a book, and I open the page and it is SO SCREAMINGLY exact and precise that I inwardly scream. I put the book away.
I wanted the book to transport me, to inspire me, to take me into that head space where I want to zip into the kitchen and whizz something up. The book sat on the shelf, looking terrific, for months. But today, for some reason, I picked it up again, read past the intellect, and created a focaccia using some rosemary flavoured salt that I had whizzed up in the morning, after being inspired by something I had read.
It was not perfect. It sort of wasn’t flat like theirs. It varied in thickness, but, oh my goodness, it was good. AND I have to admit, that following their directions, it was a pretty jolly good dough. So why did I not feel so good when I finished? My senses had not had free rein.