24 November 2005

Bakers vs. cooks?

I honestly enjoy cooking. I'll try anything. I even enjoy cooking the foods I don't particularly enjoy. I look through food magazines and start planning multiple courses of meals to share with others. While grocery shopping at my local fruitstand or butcher, I get so full of ideas and enthusiasm that I inevitably walk out with three times what I came in for.

But give me a cookbook of baking recipes, and you'll see my eyes glaze over.

It's not that I can't do it. But I find all that precise measurement to be really boring. And hard. Baking simply isn't a forgiving medium. There are exceptions, and there are a few things I make very well, and find enjoyable (chocolate paté being one, dark fruitcake being another). But overall, I'm simply not a fan of baking. Luckily, my wife is, and she takes care of it for me. Because while I don't like doing it, I love to eat the end results.

Cooking, to me, is an arena in which to guess, to estimate, to experiment with different quantities of this or that.

This isn't to say that I don't measure or pay attention to my cooking. It's not random happenstance when I make something that has people drooling. It's more just that my comfort zone is the entrees, the appetizers, the soups and the salads. I simply don't use recipes for these. At most, I look to recipes for inspiration on what to make, before heading off to try my own methods at making them.

But with baking, I need a recipe, and I need to follow it. Only after five, six or seven times will I experiment and go off the recipe. Because baking is not as forgiving! One tablespoon of soda, you're eating bubbles and making funny faces. One teaspoon, your muffins don't rise and you're eating bricks. Not much room for error.

All this to say, I think there are two kinds of cooks. Bakers, and chefs.

I respect the bakers. [Especially the ones that can make pastry without crying their eyes out.]

But I'm sticking to the chef front.

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