Monday, November 09, 2009

The religion of cooking, the spirituality of creating

Cooking is religion.

To those who might call this blasphemy, I say that no other description fits. "Avocation" sounds like an add-on; "hobby" has a spare-time ring to it; "pastime" drops from contention by self-description.

Religion -- "an object of conscientious regard and pursuit" -- suitably describes how I practice cooking.

That fact established, then, "Professional Cooking," the sixth edition, by Wayne Gisslen, including about 1,200 recipes, is my bible.

In this bible, one can learn the ingredients and instructions for everything from Allemande Sauce to Zucchini Sauté Provençale. (Key to the technique of sauté: Don't overload the pan.)

The first six-week term at the Academy revealed that getting religion isn't a matter of learning just chapter and verse in those 1,200 recipes.

The chef/instructors consider the collection of recipes only an entry point for the techniques they allow us to carry out. This is the beginning of creativity, moving toward the spirituality of combining fresh, uncooked ingredients into something flavorful.

"The point of what we're doing is improvising," Chef Tony Marano told us in Culinary Foundations I as he taught the fundamentals of all seven Les Cuissons Francaise. "What we try to do is show you at a minimum the most basic steps. Then you go from there."

In our last class, Chef Tony set the charge for us: "It's been my desire to create a space for you to do great things. I hope I have done that."

You have, Chef. You have instilled the religious fundamentals in us, allowing a spirituality to emerge. And it will, over the course of the rest of our lives.

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