The Scientist – When in Doubt, Follow the Recipe
The next person I want to introduce is The Scientist, aka: my mom. My mom will tell anyone that asks that she cannot cook. She knows one recipe, roast beef, which is delicious by the way. But outside that juicy hunk of meat, nada, nothing, zilch, nope! So just how did she inspire me in the kitchen? Simply put, she bakes. Where cooking needs creativity and inspiration, baking is a science. She follows recipes to the letter and nails them every time. She’s the best recipe hunter I know and she can bake anything to perfection.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was awful at cooking. No, I’m serious, ask my family members. It’s true! I have creativity to spare but I lacked knowledge. I lacked efficiency. You can’t simply start throwing things together without any concept of what it might turn out to be. I was working without a foundation. Finally, I started to listen to what my mom was trying to tell me for ages: to follow recipes, learn the chemistry behind baking, learn the subtle differences in how they work together and how those differences change the outcome. Bread, for example, is almost always the same 3-4 ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. But the different quatities, times, and preperations can change the outcome into so many different loaves! Finally, I started paying attention to recipes, or if I had something in mind, I searched for the commonalities in similar recipes until I had a fine idea of what to do. I started building my foundation of knowledge and in no time, my cooking and baking got better!
Now, I still experiment, and it drives The Scientist crazy, because it goes against her very nature of following the rules. But that’s okay, now I know to write things down, take notes of what does and does not work (when I remember to!) and to gather information before diving in. You don’t have to follow the recipe exactly, but it never hurts to be a little educated before you experiment.
Some of the most enjoyable moments are when we are baking together, something we try to do at least once when I go to visit her, The Guru, and The Commune. We sit together and argue recipe versus intuition and eventually arrive somewhere in the middle… and it always works out! Most recently, we embarked on some sugar/shortbread cookies inspired by Panera Bread’s flower cookies with lemon icing. We didn’t get it quite right, but we got close and they tasted good!
My mom, The Scientist, taught me how to find and trust reliable recipies. She showed me how to hunt down the good ones and what certain terms meant. She has helped me become the kitchen mom I am today and has stood behind me in my movement into more real foods from sources that I trust. She really doesn’t think so, but she played a big role in how I prepare foods in my kitchen. Not to mention the love of baked goods she sparked in me! She DOES, however, know that she’s the source of my bread obsession! And that she’s reason I feel like I need to bake something at least once a week or else I feel unbalanced.
She’s an inspirational woman, in many areas of her life, and I’m proud to call her my mom. Very Proud.