Tuesday, September 20, 2011


So this contest was fascinating.  There were two comments, one from Kathy, a purple-crazed knitter with an envy-inducing garden who I love dearly and myveryown Jedi Jasmin.  JJ wants to tackle Candy.  This will become an area of continuing study, as neither of us has ever attempted wrangling what basically constitutes Culinary Napalm in search of Inner-Child Fulfillment.  
Kathy’s one comment spurred many others, the first of whom was Mary Kay Carol, a busy single mom, to approach me in the line of “She read my mind EXACTLY!!!!”. So to the Pink and Purple Ladies go The Prize.  As devout readers they own JoC and will receive a Spice Grant from You Know Where.  Kathy’s entry:
"My worst problem is getting started! Once I get started, I'm okay. I can easily psych myself out with "oh darn, I don't have enough time" or "well, I don't have the right ingredients and I'm not confident enough to substitute". I can plan forever on what I want to make, but get stuck even before I start pulling out bowls and pans.

Other than that, my next biggest problem is seasonings. I can taste and know that it's "missing something", but I don't know how to "fix" it. Ms.JoCF who works with spices all the time, help!”
A multi-faceted problem which will become the next few blog posts, and dovetail nicely with my promise of Mac N Cheese, as this will give you a foundation in these premises. So here we have the three most common problems that befall every one of us-yes, me- who venture into a kitchen:

1. Project Planning:  We see it in every third TV advert for convenience foods--At some point in our week, time may be against us, so we need to stock up on freezer convenience goods or plan, plan, plan. Then what? After we get to be very good at that focused weeknight game plan, on any given Saturday when we’re gagging lollies on the back patio, trying to get something new going in our culinary repertoire can be even harder to achieve.  Both parts of this problem can be solved with a little JoC Fairy Brand OCD Planning (TM).  Not really that OCD, but maybe a new approach to shake things up a bit and get you going!

2.  Substitutions and 911’s:  The Right Stuff problem can be approached with planning and organization, but we will take a look at 911 Substitutions and where to find Quick References.  We’ll also start to explore your creativity here, as this can help find ways around immediate shortages and last-minute situations.  

3.  Finding Your Flavor:  Here’s an idea I’ve been chewing on for a long time.  It's really been a dream of mine, and while we start looking into these other solutions, we’ll start building:
A Taste Dictionary for Your Tongue

...Yes, you read that right, and I am really quite confident we can do this.  

Q:  When people who have very little experience cooking come into a Spice Shop, are they:

A. Intrigued
B. Intimidated

Answer? Both.  Example:  They may have read that one type of cinnamon is considered the most refined or exotic among Gourmets and Chefs.  I gather the sniffer jars and introduce them to my secret guru: 

M. Toucan Sam, Olefactory Consultant

Yah, you heard me.  Just Follow Your Nose!  What your senses tell you is delicious, what actually makes you happy or warm or turned on when you smell it is what is right for you!  We’re gonna start looking through some basic recipes and their required seasonings.  We’re gonna taste those seasonings raw, straight from the container, and begin to follow their flavor development through the end of the recipe. Remember the flour and seasonings in the White Sauce from last week?  After creating the roux with butter and adding the milk, the careful application of Heat + (Time X Whisking) = Creamy White Sauce which no longer tastes of raw flour and cold milk with a sharp dash of peppery blackness.

Once we’ve nailed where those more familiar flavors come from, we can begin to adjust amounts, then begin to add new ones.   From there you’ll feel more confident that since you used curry in this recipe that throwing a bit in that slightly similar recipe might  liven things up nicely.  You’ll find you really are a GENIUS!  
Because you are.  I encourage you to start a notebook and write it all down.  Make sections, use tabs and flags and colored pens if it makes you giggle.  These problems are presented as flat, one-dimensional predicaments solved in 60-second product commercials, but--BUT!!!!--AND PAY ATTENTION HERE!!! --- Food is important.  You are important, and you are way waaaay smarter and more capable than you probably give yourself credit for.  I can give you a couple of facile answers about making a menu and a shopping list and blah blah, but that’s handing y’all a fish today and not a pole to fish on your own forever.  
You can take these bits of information and start to build your own confidence. You will jump the hurdle into getting your dish started, learning substitutions and learning to build flavors.  From there, you are well-fed, you are loved, you are unstoppable.

Legal Notice:  No Toucans or Sams were harmed in the making of this Blog.  The Fairy does wonder, however, why Adrian Brody's image was included in the Google Image Search for "Toucan Photo".  Haunting, is all we're saying...
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1 comment:

  1. WooHoo, my very own JoC FairyGuru! My Hubby and The Boy both are the type of people who can taste & analyze a sauce to tell you what is in it. Very entertaining to watch them... However, me? "It tastes good."

    Looking forward to seeing your posts!