Monday, December 20, 2010

Cooking and Baking

These days I’m reading the book “A Place of My Own” by Michael Pollan. In this book, the author, tired of living in a world of words and ideas (he’s a writer/journalist/editor by profession) decides to build himself a cabin out in the woods much like in ‘Walden’ by Thoreau.

The author notes that while writing is like cooking, architecture is like baking. With cooking you have a general plan but after that you improvise. You can take liberties with what you throw into the pan and how long you stir the pot. Baking is more precise. The ingredients must be mixed in a just so proportion, the over just this hot and for just this long.

Really made me wonder how baking-centered American cuisine is. (Some of you might be sniggering at this -- the stereotype is that Americans don’t cook.) Indeed, everything you but at the store comes with precise instructions on how to cook it. Families cherish ‘recipes’, again precise instructions on how to make what. There seems to be a lack of cooking styles like various regional styles in India or the shechuan and hunan styles in Chinese cuisine. Indeed, an American friend how was learning Indian cooking had great difficulty wrapping her mind around that idea that there was no recipe to follow. We all just have a general idea of how stuff is made and then just improvise over it.

The fast food and processed food industry continues with this mentality. It is sad that fast food and ready to eat meals have taken over to such an extent that real cooking has been relegated to expensive ‘gourmet’ restaurants. It’s hard to find inexpensive slow cooked food in America.

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