Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fancy versus Basic

Fancy versus Basic

For years I clipped recipe after recipe. In the years prior to my laptop, these recipes were handwritten into notebooks and then into categorized binders. Then along came my laptop. I typed so many of these handwritten recipes into my computer I could have written two cookbooks! At one time, I had over 2500 recipes typed out. They came from magazines such as Gourmet, Food and Wine and the like. Imagine the amount of time I spent on that project!

Any recipe that sounded remotely interesting would get clipped and saved because ‘some day’ I would make it. Some day! Securing the ingredients in these recipes was not a key factor in the selection process. A quick scan of the ingredients would give me the heads up for “sounds good” or “I will pass.” But, since I love food so much, I had to have every recipe possible.

The ingredients used in these recipes were most often things you would find in any large metropolitan grocery store or market, or things you would only get if you were to order the dish in a restaurant. One of my faults was that I never really thought about where I might find these ingredients. I live in a tiny town in rural Manitowoc county Wisconsin. I live an hour from Milwaukee and an hour from Green Bay. The markets in this area have only the basics. Many of the recipes in my vast collection went unmade since one or two of the key ingredients could not be found.

My second fault within the recipe collection process was the method or amount of time necessary to complete these foods. The thought of making some of these recipes was so daunting that they were always passed over. Sauté for three hours. Refrigerate overnight. Let rise for 2 hours until doubled. Brine for 24 hours. Now don’t get me wrong, some of these methods and prepping were workable during the weekends and I would make these recipes, but not all the time. Cooking was starting to be like work rather than something I loved to do. What was I thinking?

My third weakness in collecting was I forgot who my cooking audience was going to be. Most of the people that eat the food that I prepare are not those that are looking for something exotic or gourmet. My friends and family enjoy good, old-fashioned home cooking. Just the basics, please. And really, when it came down to it, I enjoyed the simplicity of eating this comfort food. Hence my love of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives or Paula Deen’s down home cooking shows.

My latest school of thought follows three basic tenants. First, is this a recipe that is easy to make? Second, what are the people I am cooking for going to enjoy? And third, how involved is this to make? Fancy versus basic? Depends on the occasion, but basic seems to be a bigger hit!

And now on to my latest project, sifting, sorting and purging the collection of over 2500 recipes I have collected over the years. My new school of thought on collecting recipes is based something my sister would say when we were shopping. Is this a “Need to have” or “Want to have?” Nine times out of ten, they usually fall under the “want” category and will not get made. Gone are the endless hours of typing of recipes I will never use. My collection will be of recipes that people will ask me to make because they are tried and true. Fancy or basic? Down-home, old-fashioned basic cooking is the way to go!

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