Hi Dear Heart,
is it almost May already?? I can hardly believe how fast this season has passed and soon it will be time to return to my summer home in the Midwest. I hope you are well, Hon. Dear Old Rose is doing fine and has been so very busy visiting friends, attending fund raisers and gardening that it seems like too long since I’ve written. I always think of you, Dear Heart, and it is a joy to sit here and write some of my heartfelt thoughts. Whatever shall we discuss this time??
I have been thinking, Dear, that we should go through some of the basics of cooking itself. These are things that every cookbook believes you already know, but certainly has never stopped to tell you. It is such a shame, and so terribly confusing, to cook and not understand why some things are the way they are. So, Hon, take my hand and let’s go through the ABCs of basic cooking theory. Well, not actually cooking, Dear, but of preparing food. Of course, this will not be a formal lecture but an explanation in my own Rosian words.
Think of your food as consisting of several basic building blocks. Not building blocks in the physical sense, My Love, but in the conceptual sense. When preparing a dish, you must always keep these in mind for they are present in the most memorable and gourmet of foods. How they are considered, balanced and presented will be the difference between regrettable and exceptional. Some of these building blocks are: vehicle, feel, taste, aroma, setting and soul.Over the next few articles, I will address each of these.
The first building block of a dish is the vehicle. This is not a car or plane, Dear Heart, but the physical bulk that makes up the food. It is the physical mass that delivers the flavor, nutrition and essence of the dish. Is it starchy pasta? Tender meat? Rice? Or, perhaps, a liquid such as broth? Some vehicles are heavy (for example: yuca, potatoes, meat and some types of pasta) and some are light (for example, broth). The weight of the vehicle will ultimately make the consumer feel full and, without portion restraint, heavy. It also influences the feel, taste and soul of the food. More on these later, Dear.
There are different genres of food vehicles. What I mean by genre are groups, such as meat, starchy vegetables (for example, yuca or potatoes) and pasta (for example, spaghetti or angel hair). Within a food vehicle genre you almost always have choices. For instance, pasta comes in a variety of forms and different degrees of heaviness. Vegetables, also. Consider the difference between mashed potatoes and mashed, steamed cauliflower. These are similar vehicles from the same genre, but with vastly different amounts of starch and heaviness. Choose one that is compatible with the overall style and soul of the dish (more on these later, Hon).
When planning your dish, you must determine how much of it will be served. Optimal portion size is that which allows the partaker to fully experience the dish, but will not make them bloated. Hon, you want to leave them applauding your dish and longing for more, not immobilized upon a sofa in the parlor! Your portion size is controlled by the heaviness of the food vehicle. The more starchy the vegetable vehicle, the less of it should be portioned out. The same principle for meat, pasta, casseroles, stews and soups.
Your choice of food vehicles and portion sizes should also be driven by health concerns. We are what we eat and how we feel reflects our diets. Your choices today can enhance your tomorrow, or haunt your next week. Within a food vehicle genre, there are healthier alternatives available. Selecting leaner cuts of meat, high protein vegetables over starchy ones and whole wheat pasta are wonderful alternatives to what could otherwise be an unhealthy dish.
Well, Dear Heart, I must go for now. We will chat further about this topic next time. Until then, Kisses!