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Kitchen Magicians

July 13, 2011

I know I am not the first person to compare cooking to magic nor will I be the last, but it is. Magic that is.

Each recipe is like a spell and if incanted correctly, with the proper ingredients, under the right conditions will produce magic. How else do you explain creations like  Hollandaise sauce, caviar blinis, Mahnomin Porridge,  or even bread. Bread shouldn’t work (and I should know), you mix up all of these ingredients and put little creatures called yeast into it – poof bread. Of course you have to cast the spell correctly if you want good bread and not a thick doughy brick. Cooking isn’t the type of magic you are born with, but it takes years of training and practice. I have a particularly good spell book right now so I am able to make the magic work most of the time, but I don’t have the wizardly knowledge to know when things are going  awry.  Only after you have cast a spell many times can you truly know how it works. Once you know the recipe without thinking about it you can adjust for the conditions. The same recipe can be made with thousands of different variables.  The weather and air pressure. Turning on the light in the oven. If you are using sugar from beets grown in Illinois or from Caribbean canes. If you use kosher salt, sea salt, table salt, or curing salt. Are the eggs room temperature before you start beating them? Virgin or Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Salted or unsalted butter. Freshness of the produce. The quality of the wine. Gas vs. electric. Although using an electric stove is sort of like using a taped up wand. It works, but only the owner knows the tricks to get it to work correctly. Some of these variables matter, some don’t. An experienced chef knows which ones to pay attention to. A master chef can create something wonderful no matter what the conditions are like by adjusting the magic accordingly.

For the spells to work correctly you also need the right ingredients. Sometimes a quest may be required to procure the right type of peppers or you may need to pay dearly for the meat of bottom dwelling sea spiders. My rows of spice jars rival the shelves of any alchemist. I don’t have any eye of newt, but I have some dried mushrooms that look very mysterious.

If cooking the meal is casting a spell, then eating the meal is where we see the effects. At a very basic level food gives energy and can restore health, but those spells are easy. Food is also  mood altering. A great meal can transform an evening. It crosses cultures and brings people to a common experience.

I have 47 recipes left to complete my apprenticeship and I know there will still be some more magic before I am done. Delicious, delicious magic.

Recipe #110: Dry BBQ Rib Rub

Damn Good Book Cover Blurb of the Day: The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish Whiskey is to a glass of weak tea.

– George R. R. Martin

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2011 2:17 am

    I know I’m reading them out of order, but I like the theme of the week, and so enjoyed tonight’s posting, I had to go back and check them all out.
    I’m so glad you’re writing!
    This one was especially well written, and certainly provides one of the answers to how you ended up enjoying cooking so much. I make reference to it in my blog.

    • July 20, 2011 8:30 am

      Thanks. I agonized over this one. I had the idea and knew what I wanted to write about, but it wasn’t as easy as just whipping up a top 10 list.

  2. July 17, 2011 9:52 am

    An appropriately timed post as the country is swept up in Harry Potter fever for the last time.

  3. Patti permalink
    July 14, 2011 3:14 pm

    I see a gig on Master Chef in your future! And as I recall, the “bottom dwelling sea spider ” tacos were wonderful! God bless those sea spiders, and those who cook them!

  4. July 14, 2011 10:21 am

    i cannot explain hollandaise sauce. i made it once. it was perfect. i shall never attempt it again.
    you only have 47 recipes left? if you end this blog we will all be bereft.
    you need a new cookbook.

    • July 14, 2011 10:31 am

      Yes, but if I don’t stop the blog at some point I will be bereft. Bereft of money, bereft of slimness, and bereft of sleep.

  5. July 14, 2011 12:47 am

    My goodness…. this made me want to put on my oven mitts and get cooking!! Great analogies that even I could understand (and that’s saying a lot :D).

    One question: did you really cook “bottom-dwelling sea spiders”?

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