cooking by Braille: a note on recipes

I’m not really one for recipes. I collect cookbooks and read food blogs like mad, but when it comes to actually cooking, I’d say about 90% of what I make is free-form and spontaneous.

This fact surprises and impresses many people. Cooking by taste and feel seems has taken on a certain mythology that make people talk about it in reverent tones. I’m not being smug or bragging when I say that it really isn’t all that difficult. Every week I get a box of seasonal goodies (mostly vegetables) from a farm up the road. I don’t know what I’m going to get until the day before, and I don’t bother with a meal plan. I just listen to the food, and my belly, and I cook.

It took a while for me to get to this point. For years I cooked by recipes. Eventually I noticed that I never followed a recipe exactly; I always manipulated little things to suit my own tastes. A little more chile here, replacing sage leaves with basil because that is what I had and it tasted just fine. Over time I loosened up and gained enough confidence to really play in the kitchen. It’s an extraordinary feeling to walk into a random pantry and know that you’ll be able to make something delicious out of whatever you happen to find.

So, my goal with my “recipes” – which are more of guidelines than recipes – is to inspire that confidence, hopefully in less time than it took me. There will likely be few exact measurements, and many instructions that sound like like “add a little,” “not too much,” and “stir until it’s thick.” You will have a say in your food. Sometimes it won’t turn out the way you wanted, and that’s okay. That means you’re learning something. Over time you’ll figure out what foods taste good to you, what foods taste good together. And once you have the hang of it, I hope you’ll have me over for dinner.

Let’s start simple. Grab a tomato, cut it in half, sprinkle a little salt over it (I used black lava salt), and dig in.

Feeling more adventurous? Before you sprinkle the salt (so you don’t wash it off!), put the following on your cut tomato: the juice or zest from half a lemon; a little olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar; honey, grated fresh ginger, & ground cloves (just a touch of those last two, they are super-strong flavors); a few fresh herb leaves (basil, sage, thyme).

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