I get asked quite often 'What makes a good cook?' The answer to this question is simple. What makes a good cook is an adventurous spirit. When you break it down, cooking isn't really all that difficult. You get the ingredients. You prepare the ingredients. You heat the ingredients. That's it... Cooking is simple right? WRONG-O! The myriad combinations of ingredients and preparation methods alone will make your head spin and that is not even the adding heat part to the equation. That is why an adventurous spirit is what makes a cook "good."
We currently have many toads living in our yard. There is what I call the "mama" toad. This toad is big and striped and (since there are many varieties of bugs to munch on in our yard) appears quite happy There are also baby toads which are completely adorable and cousin toads too which are medium-sized. Each time I see a toad, which is daily lately, I am happy the ecosystem is our yard is thriving. I just wish they were faster eaters because our bug population is happy too!
Last night, I put our dog Lollipop out for her pre-bedtime potty and there was mama toad! Lolly was thoroughly intrigued. She got as close as her fraidy-cat nature would allow. She elongated her nose (how do dogs do this?) and stretched her neck at the same time as keeping her torso as far away from mama toad as possible so as to be able to make a quick get away if need be. (All dog owners know what I am talking about here.) It was all I could do to get her to come in. I think Lolly felt she needed to protect us from this strange being. She sniffed and backed away. Sniffed and backed away. This dance kept up for a while. The toad did not move at all. When the toad hopped off, Lolly nearly had a heart attack!
This morning, Lolly kept returning to the grassy area where she last saw the mama toad. Since dogs are obsessive-compulsive by nature, Lolly will probably search for mama toad for many weeks to come. Lolly returns to see what will happen next I think. Will this "thing" move? Will this "thing" scare me some more?" Do Mom and Dad and my sisters need my protection from this "thing." Fear not family! I Lollipop will protect you from this incredibly mysterious "THING!"
Lolly's never-ending excitement over the search for mysterious things and new adventures in a place she explores everyday is really quite interesting. It got me to thinking about how that is what I am like in my kitchen. I return again and again to a place I visit regularly and seek out new combinations of the same ingredients in order to create something new. What makes my combinations so unique and delicious and different than your combinations? My sense of fun and love which can be tasted in my food I think.
When cooking food, my brain, senses and taste buds fire on all cylinders. Something from the garden, a scent in the air, something I read or spices I pass may trigger my need to get cooking and creating. I don't usually have much of a plan and even if I do, I usually cook off course so to speak. I urge you to head outside and capture a metaphorical toad! "Capture" your sense of adventure and fun and bring that into the kitchen! (I DO NOT encourage you to bring a real toad into your kitchen, only the metaphorical one.) Cooking is an opportunity to nuture yourself and people you love. Let that love show and taste in your food! Let your sense of adventure (the toad) roam free in your kitchen. Combine flavors in ways you have not tried before. Apply cooking methods you have never tried before. Use ingredients that are new.
A lot of time is spent in a kitchen so make it the best, fun time it can be. Adventure may be found in your refrigerator and in all your cabinets if you just open your mind and your cooking to it. Have some fun with a side of toad!
Avid home cook and passionate instructor