This month we are looking at process in some areas besides collaborative work. We are looking at other fields where you have a choice to focus on content or focus on process, to see if valuing process works in those fields. This week we are looking at cooking.
I am not a professional chef. There was one break point in my career when I might have taken that route. I was recently widowed, disillusioned with my job, and looking for a new direction. I consulted a career coach who administered the Strong Interest Survey. It had one question on cooking: “Do you enjoy experimenting with recipes?” I answered “no.” I don’t play with recipes. Recipes are about content. My cooking is all about process. But because I answered “no” to the only cooking question, the career coach did not recommend that I become a chef.
My stepdaughter bakes with a food scale. She doesn’t measure ingredients, she weighs them. It is a much faster and more accurate way of cooking, and it allows her to keep up with the demand of baking all her own bread, pie crusts, pasta, and pizza crust.
I don’t use a food scale. I like the process of spooning the flour into the measuring cup and leveling it off – I have a particular spoon and measuring cup, a King Arthur Flour dough cutter I use for leveling, and a collection of special storage canisters that are sized to allow the process without spilling – of measuring the water, of stopping the mixing to test the consistency of the dough, adding a pinch more floor or a teaspoon more water to get it just right. I am really into the process, my daughter wants to get the content right the first time and move on.
I am working on a book entitled How to Survive the Loss of a Chef. For a while I was bogged down by not knowing what recipes to put in the book. I finally realized I’m not writing a book of what to put into dishes, I’m writing a book on how to become competent and confident in the kitchen. I’m writing a book on how to teach yourself process in keeping with the tenets of last week’s blog on teaching.
Over twenty years ago, when my sons were still in college and contemplating going out on their own, I heard an interview on NPR with the author of a cookbook. The author told the story about his bread salad recipe coming under fire from the food critics. An authentic bread salad has 27 ingredients, his recipe only had four. His response was that he was trying to teach a novice cook the process of making bread salad. Once that was mastered, the apprentice chef could gradually add more content until they reached the canonical form of bread salad.