Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Culinary Adventures

Those who know me, know – I LOVE to cook. I love to experiment in the kitchen and I love to prepare food for friends and family.
I will try (almost) anything. Recently I was rearranging the living room and found one of my most treasured cookbooks in the end table. Mangos and Curry Leaves. Wow.

I have never sat down in the living room with a glass of wine and actually read a cookbook from cover to cover.
I did with this one. It’s so much more than a cook book. It’s like the authors have taken you with them on vacation through the subcontinent. I have never had the pleasure of visiting India – hopefully one day, but for now I am content to cozy up with this book on a cool winter’s night with a big zin and settle in for a lesson not only in food, but about the people, the culture and the sheer adventure of travel in such an exotic land.

While I may not live in an exotic adventurous place – I will say that I am able to eat adventurously more often than not. I have recently begun having lunch with a new friend who seems to share my
foodie-ness. Being the daughter of a chef, the sister of a restaurant maven and mom and auntie to the next generation of foodies, I have seldom found people to share my view of food with outside of my family – of which I am not complaining…it just not something that I’ve found the “average” NC resident finds important or enticing
(insert eye roll here). So it should go without much fuss that Steven is also a transplant to this area – having traveled extensively and experienced things that I haven’t (yet) he’s been a lot of fun to get to know. So we have begun meeting at various local eateries that one or the other favors or has had a “good report” about. This is going to be fun. If you know me, again, you know my motto “no chain restaurants” – Steven too, shares this view – all I can say is – yea!
I am at a point and age in my life where I do not have to eat crappy food. I don’t have to, don’t want to, ain’t gonna do it. Thank you for letting me get that off of my chest. I feel lighter somehow.

And now for something completely different…

When I'm in my own kitchen cooking, I find music essential. The right music while I'm chopping, slicing and stirring can transform a mindless chore into a spiritual exercise--a vacation from all the voices in my head. The music helps get me into that relaxed headspace with cooking that really revives you after a long day at work. It takes me to another place, where my creativity can blossom. Even the food can taste different based on the music played. I truly believe, it helps to put the love into the food.

I have go-to music and genres for everything I do in the kitchen. When I’m cooking, I like something upbeat, something that’s motivating and energizing, especially if I’m entertaining. Juan Luis Guerra is in the cd player now...and yes, I'm dancing while cooking too. If the prep is easy and the cooking is pretty straightforward, I like vocals, something I can sing along to during the chopping and washing, but nothing so distracting that I stop paying attention.

When I have to hover over a cookbook and really focus on what I’m doing, like baking - I usually go for something instrumental. I’m a classical musician, so this is easy enough. But I also try to put on something that won’t just fade into the background. Bela Fleck’s Perpetual Motion is in heavy rotation right now. I love the plucky precision of his banjo cutting through the classical repertoire.

If I need a bit more drama, I have an adaptation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Each of the original Vivaldi seasons, and then the paired movement of Piazzolla’s Seasons in Buenos Aires. It burns with the sun, blows with gale force winds — a completely gorgeous experience.

Cleaning up is a different matter. It’s a hard balance: I need the distraction of a peppy sing-along, but it’s also usually late and it’s been a long night, so something peaceful is in order.

Of course, the music I play when we’re actually eating depends on the day, my mood, the company, and what I’m cooking. Choosing music for a meal is like choosing wine - it can either enhance or detract from the experience.

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