Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ate My Soul and Gave Me The Recipe

As we discussed earlier, dear nonexistant readers, the ostensible purpose of a recipe is to facilitate recreations of the same result.  But of course this is not the whole story.  When you’re most in need of a recipe is when you’ve never made what the recipe tells you how to make.  At such a delicate time you take care to follow the recipe exactly.  Having never followed the recipe before, it is easy to misunderstand the recipe.  Sometimes, by sheer luck, the first time comes out flawlessly.  More often there are some kinks, which over the next few attempts, are worked out, and finally a satisfactory result is produced.  After this point, if you need the recipe at all any more, it is more as a memory map than an instruction set.

What is it you have created?  Your creation conforms to the limited contours that the recipe provides.  If you were after a replica of what the author sought to instruct you to make, however, there is no way of confirming this.  Sometimes there are photos, which often provide a more forceful impulse than the recipe itself--you see the photo and think “I want to make that.”  It’s sometimes easy to make it look right, sometimes it isn’t.

All these masturbatory, death-of-the-chef preoccupations aside, whether or not the recipe changes, you change.  At least, this is one way of accounting for culinary disappointments.  Tonight I made pasta with tomato-cream sauce and shrimp for dinner, and I ate it, but only because I was hungry.  The flavors were weak, and the textures even a little nauseating.  I’ve made pasta with tomato-cream sauce in countless different ways, some less satisfying than others.  And I keep making some form of it because I remember a few delicious instances of this dish.  But this time it’s been long enough I wonder if I have any idea what I’m after.  If I made what to me was a wonderful pasta dish a year ago, and ate it today, would I like it much?  There really isn’t any way of finding out empirically.  If I wrote down the precise recipe for those times when I made a particularly spectacular rendition, I doubt I would be able to reliably cook it again.  And I doubt I would want to.

A recipe is a much more intriguing beast than it may have appeared.

The general shape inconsistently described above also applies to me writing this entry.  Through writing, what I wanted to write changed.  What I thought I was writing changed.  These changes can hardly be tracked by the writing itself to create something coherent.  To me it appears that throughout the entry I forgot what I meant to write, and began on a new, somewhat related tangent.  By the end forgot the import of everything I had just written, summing it up as "intriguing."

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