Recipe as Music
If I chop onions and caramelize them down to sweetness without tears;
add cherry tomatoes from the garden, perhaps feta cheese, roasted garlic and lemon juice... improvising, like hands on a keyboard, following my intuition to lunch. Perhaps it’ll be delicious, but soon forgotten.
That’s why cooking isn’t recipe writing. Recipes aren’t the performance. Instead, they’re the ability to take life in motion, or imagine life at its best and then translate it into culinary language. A recipe, like written scores cooks play the world over, again and again.
Recipes as Music
Music’s scales and intervals are cooking’s teaspoons and cups. Tempo the oven’s calibrations. The instrumental parts — ingredients. While the score lies in the instructions, our map to taste, aroma and transformation. They serve as dedicated guides. Scores allow musicians access to the composer’s imagination. We hear music, while meals play through multiple senses. Occasionally, I’ll jot down a recipe, after making something I want to remember, but more often I listen—open and curious, with a spirit of exploration until I’m captured, like falling in love. I become infatuated with an ingredient, a genre, a technique, an occasion, or by equipment. It usually starts with — “I wonder if…” and then the kitchen whispers.
Under this spell,
I’ll grab my notebook, and write impressions, work out ratios, and play it in my mind.
I’ll imaginatively cook and taste, sometimes several versions in sequence. This happens rapidly, sometimes as if the dish already existed impressionistically. When it’s fleshed out,
I cook it, keeping track of any new inspirations. I have a stopwatch and scale to time and measure as I work, keeping notes, because the recipe’s magic is in the details.
I write recipes for my classes, blog posts and articles. If you ask me to cook for a party,
I’ll write recipes for the occasion. I write recipes, almost, every day, and because of this practice fruits and vegetables dance, dice themselves and jump into the pot singing. Spices and herbs, call out their correct proportions, and I’m often surprised —
caraway with paprika, really?
Recipes depend upon measure, like music, and without measure there is no mastery. I am a student and servant to the art of recipe composing.
Two recipes to try
Sidonie Maroon is a Recipe Developer, Food Writer, Chef and Culinary Educator.She also blogs at her recipe site: abluedotkitchen.com and for the Port Townsend Food Coop