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Inventing Food: Creating And Improving Recipes

For me, cooking is like painting. I start with foods that call to me, as colors do to an artist. Then I blend the foods until the final dish is what I imagined it could be. It is rare that a dish tastes the same way twice.

I have thousands of recipes, my own inventions as well as dishes from tattered recipe books that I rescued from thrift stores and garage sales. The older the better, because I make everything from scratch and that has become a dying art for the home cook.

A Nose For Food

I also cook with my nose. This is probably the most frustrating thing for my children to learn from me. They ask when to take something out of the oven, and I tell them it will smell done. How is that for guesswork?

I smell herbs and know what to combine them with, smell a finished dish and know it needs something. Yep, I am weird that way. With so much emphasis on visual appeal, it isn't often that aroma is considered a tool in cooking.

When I started writing about food for my first book, the hardest part of the entire thing was writing the recipes. I never thought about measuring or timing for many of them. To resolve this, I would actually can a few jars of something and write down the steps as I went.

I think this made the recipe tester a little nervous, so rest assured that my recipes were looked over with a fine toothed comb.

Visceral Tastes

Food and memories are tightly entwined in my mind. I equate a meal with something special in my past, from grandparents (whom I lost when I was 4), to now with my own children.

One of my favorite ways to share these memories with them is to write down a note next to a dish, so hopefully it will jog their memory in the future. I marked down the date that every child made his first item without (much) help, too.

I correct my own recipes in the same way - creating a food journal for our family, and crafting something that will remind them of their childhood and me.

Cooking is my dearest friend, my soothing confidant and my muse. Even with all the fancy cooking shows available (which I love), I turn to my basic garden herbs, butter, sugar and flour to make dishes of love for my family and nurture the creative side of myself.

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