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