A month ago I had a group of bakers staying with me for a baking weekend, in which they all tried out different recipes and were taking notes of each others comments. While watching them at work I learned how dependent cooks and bakers are on our senses. But while for a cook apart from eyes and nose his tongue is his main instrument, for a baker the tactile bit of feeling the dough is as important.
Off course the most important sense to use while baking or cooking is the sixth, your stomach. When I did my chefs training my teacher used to say: ” forget cooking times, you have to know, feel, understand what is going on inside your pan”. Never been one for textbook guidelines, this was a lesson I easily took to heart. For me it’s the zen bit of cooking, zoning in on what your doing, centering yourself (which for me is in my stomach) and be in the moment with, for instance, your wilting spinach in the pan. Yep, that hurts! But at the same time they are fresh leafs sprouting from the ground, glistening drops of water hanging on them, turning into this radiant green full of life.
I noticed my baking guests doing it, “being with” the dough. They had their basic technic knowledge, their lists of percentages of ingredients, but in the end, while kneading it, they might decide that they “felt” that they had to alter it, because the air is too humid, or the temperature is too low for the leaven to do its work.
We’ve lived in an age where food became more and more functional, broken down to a list of ingredients, nutritional values and technical instructions how to prepare it. Down to the milligram we can know what is on our food. But it doesnt say on the package how much love went into our ready made meal. Luckily there are signs that an holistic approach to cooking gains ground. Watching Masterchef these weeks I noticed how often it is mentioned that contestants have to put love and passion into their food, apart from being technologically skilled chefs who can cook something tasty.
I often get the question if I try out dishes. That would be an immense task with a weekly changing menu. I trust my stomach and my basic technological knowledge enough now to just give a recipe a go. I use cookery books for inspiration, not to find that technological perfect recipe. One of the first books to give me that, because of the love for food with which it was written, is ‘New Basics’ by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. It looks the most well used out of all the cookery books in my collection, and not without a reason. To honour them, and to urge you to trust your stomach as a New Basic of your cooking, this week a menu with a selection from that book.