Baker vs Cook

In my house we have learned we have different cooking styles. This different paradigm would often peak when I would be running errands and late to prepare for a party and would ask my husband to get things started. For example, preparing risotto. I would call home, “Hey, would you start warming up the broth and cutting up some onions for the risotto?”

“Sure, how much broth?”

“Ummm, a big bowlful.”

“How many cups?”

“Never mind, I’ll be home soon.”

Over the years we have realized, as we laugh over these conversations, that we approach cooking from different spaces. For lack of a better term I am going to refer to this difference as the baker vs. the cook. (Jeanne Robertson would call this left brain vs right brain).

These are fluid paradigms and not black and white by any means (as in all life), but I know he and I have divergent approaches to cooking and for me that boils down to using measuring devices. I never use measuring devices when I am in the kitchen unless I am baking or following a written recipe (which happens rarely).

Does that mean sometimes I have to cook the oatmeal longer? Yes. Does it mean it is nearly impossible to perfectly replicate recipes that have been inspired by what is in the garden? Yes. Does it mean my friends get frustrated when they ask me for the recipe and I prevaricate and change the subject? Yes.

But for me, for some reason, I feel like I am wearing a straightjacket if I can’t use the extra handful of cucumber (leftover from chopping) for a soup recipe that calls for 1 cup. It is my realm of happy rebellion to the rules and regulations that pervade so much of life.

The kitchen is a restful oasis where I am queen of the castle and can do whatever I want. I treasure this hedonism (and yes, I am not yet worrying about the desires of children).

Surrounded by smells, flavors, and color I am feeding my senses and my desires for what my body wants. It is satisfying because my curiosity can be immediately sated. (What happens if I pour the olive brine into the cooking rice to go with tuna and yogurt? Let me find out! Delicious!)

It is highest form of self-indulgence and creativity and I love it.

Here is my risotto "recipe" that I wrote out last summer for a friend.

you will need, butter/oil, arborio rice, a large onion, bottle of white wine, parmasean cheese (the real stuff, none of this green can stuff), broth of some sort (chicken, mushroom, etc), three/four things to add at the end to make it fabulous (you don't want to put too many things in because it will taste muddy - three types of sauteed mushrooms - meat, veg, veg (whatever you have that is leftover) - bacon makes the whole thing off the hook)

#1 put broth on the stove to be nice and warm #2 chop a large onion into smallish bits #3 put too much butter and oil into a large soup pot (best is the kind that is shallow and wide, if you can swing that) #4 throw in the onion, there should be extra oil and butter in the pan, coat with the fat #5 wait for the onion to become translucent and then throw in the rice (one handful per person, there should be four times more broth for every handful of the rice, more or less, it is supposed to be starchy) #6 stir the rice and the onion for about 2 minutes - you are looking for the rice to absorb the fat and to become a little translucent on the edges #7 pour in the bottle of wine - the fire should be hot enough under the rice that steam erupts in your face when you do this - cover the rice/onion mixture with about an inch more of the wine - stir #8 stir #9 once most of the wine is absorbed by the rice pour in one/two ladles of the hot broth that you have on the stove top #10 rinse repeat #11 once the rice is beginning to taste almost done (about 20-25 minutes) with all of the broth gone throw in your goodies - asparagras, garlic scapes, leftover chicken from the night before, tomatoes etc #12 put in the last of the broth for the rice to "sip on something" as you run around getting everyone to the table, put the lid on to keep everything warm (if you put kale, chard in, you can throw them on top at this point and then stir them into the rice before you serve, they will wilt) #13 grate some cheese and throw it in - add a pat of butter for smoothness and SERVE!!

(here is the link for the annarbor.com piece)