Lessons from Cooking

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Writing about food is on par with trying to describe a dream you had last night. There is no way that to properly convey what that experience means. You can only come up with a laundry list of adjectives and hope to communicate a portion of that experience to the reader. It has always been my opinion that instead of describing those very personal interactions that make writing about someone else’s cooking such a intimate affair, the writer should try to connect to the reader on a more common ground.

When flipping through Food and Wine or some other magazine, two topics always keep my eye glued to the page: comedy and tragedy. Just like a Greek play, those two themes encompass even food writing and make you laugh, cry, and genuinely intrigued from one passage to the next.

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Mise en Place for Baba Ganoush

3 Medium Eggplants

3 cloves chopped garlic

2 Tbsp Tahini

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

1 Tsp pumpkin seed oil

1 Tsp pepper

Even if I were to share my secret for the best bourbon steak sauce, you would probably be more interested in the time when my chef poured the bourbon into the pan, the fire crept up the pour, and shot the bottle out of his hand into a shattering fireball on the far wall. Comedy. Or more interested in a cook so dehydrated he slowly staggered and fell backward into a 600 degree grill. Tragic.

More powerful and all encompassing than both of these themes in food writing however, is family.

The lady who took care of me when I was young was Egyptian.  Her kitchen smelled of things that most 5 year olds, let alone adults couldn’t place. Things like baklava, dolmas, and lentil soup would occupy her time and my attention. I would sit and wonder how things that smelled so far from cheeseburgers and French Fries could taste so good.

Slice eggplant length wise in large cuts. Rub with half the oil, garlic, salt and all the pepper. Grill until soft.

When I hear the word baba ganoush I think of some tall man with a fez passing through a dusty alley way. There is a certain mystique about a word that is hard to pronounce and even harder to spell.  This was a dish that Meme made flawlessly. Rustic in preparation and appearance, the flavor is unmatched by anything I have found.

Remove skin from eggplant and put in robot coupe with tahini, rest of salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon. Blend.

Any list of complementary adjectives could be used to describe how great this recipe is. I could tell you it’s the best dip you will ever have, but once again, I would just be describing food.  It tastes like chasing girls around the playground, and freeze tag, and rainy days when the sun sets at 4 p.m. to me.  All those things probably don’t taste like much to someone else.

Add Parsley and mix. Drizzle with pumpkin seed oil and serve with vegetables and fresh baked pita chips.

Meme passed away seven years ago. She was always one of my biggest influences, especially in food. All those smells and tastes that floated around me as a little kid drove my curiosity about things I have never experienced before. Just as she explained to me how you can tell boy dogs from girl dogs when I was five: sometimes you have to look a little bit closer. That lesson holds true with cooking too, our most cherished dishes are the ones that mean more than just tasting good.

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About Author

Food and cooking has been a great travel buddy for Chris, finally taking root in Jackson. Originally from Seattle, Chris enjoys rainy walks to get coffee, cold dark beers, and cozying up in a warm restaurant kitchen. He has a background in marketing but has spent most of his days working in fine dining behind the line. Now you can find him selling hummus, perusing the farmers markets, or mountain biking behind his Aussie Shephard, Zephyr.

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