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The Technique

We like to cook. Both Kelly and I enjoy the act or at least the end result of cooking. The act of cooking has become somewhat meditative for myself. The peeling, chopping, kneading, etc a time to think about not only what you’re doing but also about other things going on in life. I would hazard a guess and say that I get the same benefits from cooking that K gets from running. This is probably why she runs without music while I prefer to listen to “This American Life”, to try and forget that I’m actually running.

Cooking wasn’t always like this. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but it was complex enough that when I would try to make a decent, truly homemade meal I generally would run into one or two major complications that threatened to destroy the whole thing or at least cause enough frustration that would make me reconsider why I bothered to cook in the first place. I think a lot of us are like that when it comes to the kitchen. I would guess that most of us learned very little technique from our parents, who happened to live through a rough time in regards to food. The U.S. went prepackaged, processed and prepared in their generation and the techniques, if they even existed before, were lost and when you would decide to go big and take on that dinner party there is confusion, concern and many mistakes because you’re handling so many new techniques that you’re just not used to dealing with.

Recipes can be seemingly complex. There is all this measuring and vagueness that we tend to get caught up in. The frustration, time, and money (sometimes wasted when you accidentally overcook that $35 leg of lamb) spent causes many a shortened relationship with their knives. You pack it up, think of the mess you’ve created and resolve to order pizza next time.

I was like that when I met K. When I would make a meal, I would almost always make a measuring mistake, make a mess, destroy the protein that I had spent so much money on (generally by overcooking) and end up with an unremarkable meal. K actually taught me that you don’t have to measure everything, to go by taste, sight and smell and when I grasped that idea, cooking became enjoyable. And now you’re more likely to find me happy in the kitchen and K the one yelling expletives during a complex recipe (This usually happens when K tries to speed up the cooking process by turning everything to HIGH and then quickly forgetting about it – We’ve lost a few pans this way).

But while I feel pretty comfortable with most recipes, there is much to learn on the technique. I don’t want to be a slave to the recipes. I want to know how to cook on a whim. How to take what looks great in the market and turn it into something delicious without resorting to foodnetwork.com. I want to learn how to properly create sauces and stocks, etc and there are basically two ways to do this:

1. Read a bunch of books and lots of trial & error

2. Go to school

Now there is no doubt in my mind that option #1 is less expensive. Even if I went out and bought foie gras for every meal we’d probably be better off financially, but because I’m totally ADD and require schedules and discipline, I chose #2. I am taking the Basic Techniques class at the French Culinary Institute, a 110 hour, 22 class introduction to classic French techniques. You’ve probably heard of the FCI before. Top Chef has done a show from there. Bobby Flay graduated there. They even host a PBS show from campus (which is just a 6 story building in soho).

But I didn’t choose FCI for any of those reasons. I chose FCI because they offered this class (what I would call a focused and somewhat hardcore education) at night and what they call “Total-Immersion” learning, which basically means you start cooking as soon as the first class and you spend most of your time cooking. My class meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:45-10:45 and I plan on sharing my experience on this blog. I hope I don’t bore you too much.


2 Responses

  1. You know, this would have made for an awesome reality tv show, amature gourmet cook heads to the FCI for their crash course in Basic Techniques! You have the charisma/charm/humor people like to see on TV, this would have been a great pitch to Food Network! Ah, oh well … I do love reading about your experience with it on the blog though, so keep it up!

  2. You’re very sweet, Kristin, but I think they’d just tape my cutting off my finger…

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