02 August 2007

Real Taste

Had an excellent dinner last night.

A light salad with red cabbage followed by a main course of spaghetti with tomatoes and olives and a side of collard greens and bakery-fresh bread. And a healthy dose of conversation among friends throughout.

This is what dinner is all about. Simple food well prepared and shared over a good talk.

One of the biggest mistakes folks make in the kitchen is falling into the trap of complex food preparation. I think this is partly a result of the restaurant-chain mentality. KFC uses thirteen herbs and spices, so I have to use thirteen herbs and spices. Chilis makes an onion that looks like an exploding demon, so I have to make an onion that looks like an exploding demon. I think this is the reason a lot of folks opt for ready-made frozen meals rather than bother to cook.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Notice just how amazing a fresh organic tomato tastes. Bite into a real South Carolina peach. Sprinkle real extra virgin olive oil on a slice of fresh bread with a dash of basil from the garden.

Eating simple is the way to eat.

American restaurant cooking so often fails because it mistakes flashy sauces and spices for genuine flavor. By contrast, when you order insalata caprese in Roma, what you get is tomato that tastes like tomato and mozzarella that tastes like mozzarella. And you never forget it.

Here's a call to arms to all home cookers: let's make simple food that tastes like what it is. No more silly sauces, no more masking the true flavor of the food in a coating of varnish.

This is not to say that spices are bad. Quite the contrary. Blue Crabs belong with Old Bay. Hungarian dishes deserve paprika. Rather, what I'm driving at is this: there are a lot of chain restaurants who are trying to cover up the fact that their cooking is sub-par by dressing up their dishes in phony candies. Don't fall prey.

Remember: it's your kitchen. And you can always best tell the freshness of a tomato by biting into it.

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