The thing that sets most top chefs apart from the average cook is that they will go out of their way to acquire the highest-quality ingredients available. When you have good ingredients and you respect them during preparation, you don’t need fancy recipes or kitchen tools to produce a tasty meal. In fact, the less you do to your ingredients the better!
Recipes are a great way for cooks to communicate and record information. I have probably read many thousands of recipes by now, but the number that I have actually gone out of my way to follow is less than 1%. I get inspiration from recipes, but when it comes to day-to-day cooking, it doesn’t really make sense to follow recipes all the time. I can’t always buy the exact amount asked for in the recipe so there is bound to be leftovers. I can’t go to the store every day to make sure I have all the ingredients that are listed. Plus, if I am always following other people’s recipes, I never learn or try anything new.
The reality is that you always have to work with what you have. And after reading enough recipes, you start to get a sense of what sorts of flavors go well together, and you can combine the ingredients you do have with harmony without needing a recipe. So when you just always make sure to have the ingredients around, you can find ways of combining them that brings you nourishment.
This means most of the work required to prepare and eat good food happens long before you get to the kitchen. It happens at the farmer’s markets and the grocery store. It happens when you sign up for a CSA or visit a local farm. It happens when you research what produce is in season and what is grown in your area. You do all this work beforehand so that when you are actually hungry, the work is mostly done and all you have to do is let the ingredients come to the table.
I will always write and read recipes, but when it comes time to actually prepare a meal, I won’t be searching for a recipe to make, I will be looking at the food I have and comparing that to what I feel my body needs. Where they intersect is the ideal place to start building a meal, and when you always have high-quality ingredients around, you will always have high-quality meals.
Please read as many recipes as you can, but realize that it is the food, not the recipe that tastes good. When you have good food to begin with, the recipe is not important and preparing the meal becomes quick, simple and painless. So do the work now, before you’re hungry, to seek out the good ingredients and you will be able to reap the benefits later.