Posted by: zhak39 | September 20, 2005

It’s in the genes.

I have it-got it from my father. He got it from his mother and I have passed it on to my oldest son. My sister does not have it, nor does her husband but my niece does. What is it?

The cooking gene.

This elusive and wonderful cross-gender strand of D.N.A. provides the potential for creative cookery. It is not necessary for chefs whose art is more about consistency, timing, and detail. No, genetic cooker-ers are the people who can taste from smell, who make meals from the scraps in the bottom of the refridgerator, who respond to a recipe with ‘sounds good but swap the basil for rosemary and….’ We wake up from an early morning dream remembering not the plot or imagery but the question ‘was that roasted garlic or crushed shallots Johnny Depp was pressing into portabello mushrooms?’

We LOVE to please palates but are a nightmare to cooking technicians. While my family has both (as well as some who shun the kitchen altogether) this trait is wholly absent from my husband’s gene pool. This has been the cause of some stress for my mother-in-law. She is a wonderful old-style provider whose meals start with seedlings under glass before awakening soil in the spring. Every meal year round features something that she grew, picked, canned, pickled, or froze. Her herbs are pungent, her jams gemlike. Her stews are hearty and filling. A cultural anthropologist could define mainstream Americana in her kitchen. Her handwritten cookbooks read like scientific texts–and therin lies our difficulty.

“We loved that chicken, what do you call it, catch-a-tory that you made. What’s your recipe?” she asks.

Uh-oh, I know what’s coming.

“Well, Carol, when I made it the other night I had some leftover broth that hadn’t been frozen which is nice. I used just chicken thighs this time. The mushrooms and I used a vidalia were sauteed in equal parts butter and olive oil…”

“Wait a minute. How much broth did you use?”

“I don’t know. There were, what, nine people that night? The broth mixed with white wine, about 3 to 1 and it depends on what kind of tomatoes, I think I had plums that day and since they’re not as juicy I probably threw in some extra broth…”

You get the picture. I measure by a little bit, some more, a tight handful, a palm’s worth. It’s equivalent to a dash, a tablespoon, a quarter cup, um, well, maybe-sort-of.

Those of us with the cooking gene really do want to please, even if we haven’t the same syntax or semantics of the general population. Carol has accepted my cookbook dyslexia and has not let it keep her from enjoying the meals we have together. And even better, for every meal I cook for her, she cleans the kitchen!



    Jumping up and down happy to welcome you to the blogosphere!

    Let me know if and when it’s okay to add you to my blog roll!

  2. Thank you for the warm welcome. This is pretty exciting stuff (does that make me a nerd or something?)

    Give me a week or so to develop a profile, etc (you may be hearing from me for suggestions).

    And thank you for your patience as I’ve been dragging my feet into blog-o-land.

  3. Absolutely. One suggestion I have for you right now. Go to settings, comments, and turn on your word verification. Yes, it’s a little bit of a pain in the ass, but without it you’ll get comment spam eventually, and that’s no fun. I think everybody’s gotten used to it by now.

  4. Oh, and about this post…sometimes a cook evolves. I used to be the one that questioned my mother for exact measurements. Now I usually use the palm of my hand if I don’t throw ingredients straight into the pot! But you, yeah, you got the DNA right off the bat.

    The ironic thing is that I just bought a food scale for my new bread baking project, which will require a shift back to the exacting recipes and processes.

  5. JQ,you and your name changes the first time I went to this blog I thought I’d gotten lost in ciber space now I see I was just lost in your never failing extencive brain

  6. “I was just lost in your never failing extencive brain”

    Yeah, I get lost in there too!

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