Our motto at My Kosher Kitchen @ COR is to provide culinary education to help good cooks become great. Therefore it has occurred to me to ask what is the definition of a good cook?
So I reached out to some members of my Kitchen Cabinet*, an advisory board comprised of those of you who are passionate about cooking, and posed the question.
I was rewarded with a rich array of responses that offer food for thought in examining reasons for fighting the good fight.
One said “a good cook is an honest cook”. Another fleshed that thought out by saying “someone who respects and enhances the natural flavours of the food”, which, I think, frankly speaking, is a pretty good place to start. Maybe an honest cook is also someone who is honest with themselves about why they cook. (They keep on coming back hungry is sometimes as introspective a reason as I can give.)
“Healthful foods that taste great” was a weigh in, and also that “presentation is a big component, as is the effort it may take to put together a meal”. One response suggests that an objective test of a good cook is whether their “recipes are being copied and used in other people’s kitchens”. I find it interesting to think that with such a proliferation of cookbooks in print, people actually seem to be cooking less. Maybe the desire to transmit a recipe needs to be preceeded by someone, dear, making it for you. (It’s been said that, sadly, most people’s experience of Jewish life these days is compared to reading a menu, rather than the experience of dining.)
And the last word goes to Denise Levin who hints at the transformation of a good cook into great. She writes that it’s developing the mindset that elevates a lowly ingredient, like a potato, into a gift from Above that nourishes and delights that makes a cook great. It’s the appreciation of “this gift of love, that when a good cook uses it, can transform that potato into a gourmet dish”.
While we’re on the theme of potatoes, a great cook I know, wrote in and asked for the Potato Kugel
recipe I make for Shabbos, after sharing that it was the one and the same recipe from which our Chanuka latkes are made.
Next week, with your permission, I’d like to continue the discussion of what makes a good cook great.
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada
*With thanks to Rabbi Yisroel Roll for this endearing term.