Saturday, March 16, 2013

Up Close & Personal: My Culinary Philosophy

I've been asked on several occasions what my culinary philosophy is.  Honestly, it's something I never really gave much though to until recently.  I like to cook and in most instances, I cook whatever sounds good to me at that particular moment in time.  It actually took a bit of thought and soul searching to really figure out how to articulate my beliefs in regard to the culinary world.

I love the holistic-ness food can have.  I'm fascinated to know every facet of where my food came from, how it was cultivated, raised and harvested - the ultimate journey of how it arrived on my plate.  From this perspective, I'm a true advocate of the farm to table movement.  I feel that to really understand and know what we're eating, we have to understand its origin.  Sometimes, that backstory is less than pretty but that's the reality I think we all need to understand when we decide to eat something or feed it to our families.  I understand how factory farming works, do I like it?  No, of course not, which is why I support companies like Nieman Ranch and Snake River Farms for taking less profitable, more humane approaches to meat production.

I'm a die hard proponent of the nose to tail philosophy.  If an animal is giving it's life to feed us, it's our duty to make sure that that animal is honored by using every possible part of it.  It doesn't hurt that offal accounts for several of my favorite foods, but even if organ meat isn't your cup of tea, there are ways to use the entirety of an animal without being wasteful.  The same idea holds true with plants.  Use your scraps and peels to flavor stocks or compost them for your garden.

I'm also fascinated by culinary innovation and the science behind food.  Yes, I cook with xanthan gum, arrow root starch, agar and maltodextrin.  No, I don't feel as if I'm "defacing" or "degrading" my food.  The culinary world presents so many possibilities and is literally changing everyday, how can you close your mind to that?  One of the most memorable dishes I've eaten in recent past was a Tomato Water Martini created by subjecting a tomato puree to a high speed centrifuge.  No chemicals needed, just physics to separate the "water" from the pulp.  The result was a clear liquid with the most intense tomato flavor I could imagine.  And heck, I just think stuff like that is cool.

Do I think that good food can come in a prepackaged form?  Of course I do.  We eat frozen pizza, pre-made granola bars and an array of things that frankly I just don't have time to make from scratch on a daily basis.  While I don't think your diet should subsist entirely on processed food, it has it's place in the world and yes, it can be good.  Personally, I love American Flatbread Company pizza and Amy's Organics frozen enchiladas.  I don't eat them every day (or every week for that matter), but yes, they do find there way into my diet.  The idea of creating everything in my kitchen from scratch is a wonderful pipe dream and if we ever win the lottery, then I'll have bountiful time to do so.  Until then, I'm a realist and accept the place prepackaged foods have in my world.

I've yet to come across a food I'm not at least willing to try.  I know I'm not going to instantly fall in love with everything I eat, but being open minded to new flavors, textures and ingredients is half the fun of eating.

Along with all of that, I do recognize that food is essentially fuel to us and I try to eat a balanced diet to subsidize the fact that I do lead an active lifestyle.

So with all that being said, this is what I've come up with: I believe in creating great food, however you personally define that, being open to new culinary experiences and sharing it with the people who matter to you. Ultimately, I feel that feeding people and sharing something you created with those you care about is the greatest expression of love.  That my friends, is my culinary philosophy.

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