7 Ways to Raise your Culinary IQ

Food Philosophy

7 Ways to Raise your Culinary IQ

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Our palates couldn’t help but to evolve with the rest of us. Our preferences and desire for the next meal continues to keep us curious and creative. If only our wants could magically create good food. Because they can’t do it alone, these 7 tools will help you raise your culinary intuitive quotient.

  1. Be real.

The kitchen is one the safest places to practice being your authentic self. Like any art form, creating good food is purely subjective. (Even though, its reassuring when others find joy in it).Today with more than enough cooking shows, celebrity chefs and floodgate of cookbooks, sifting through all the food influences is no easy feat. Understanding our food choices can give us some insight into other aspects of our life. Reclaiming our palate is a means to making our food experiences more subjective, a way to better understand our own preferences and use them as a blueprint for self-expression. Make your own meal by making a meal your own. Everything we create is unique just because we are making it. Put some soul in it.

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  1. Be fluid

To do the dance, we hear and feel the rhythm. A rock in the stream doesn’t obstruct the way, but is part of it. As the water smooths the rough edges of the rock and the rock returns the favor by purifying the water, the dance is smooth and continuous. This flow is the path of less resistance. Being fluid has to do with trust. When we trust ourselves, our gut feelings (intuition), our instincts, our choices, what we see, smell, and feel, will give us cues as to whether or not what we have created will meet our own expectations. Our kitchens are the perfect place to ride the current.

  1. Take Risks

What are recipes but a risk taken and later perfected? To become better cooks, we have to be flexible. We have to take risks. Fall, rise and bounce back like dough. Stretch like gluten. As we yield, we learn which ingredients can be substituted for others. We learn which ingredients compliment, contrast, modify, and enhance. We learn to differentiate which ingredient overpower in a soup, about those that show up as subtle flavors, and the ones that lingers in the backdrop of a sauce.   With practice, we learn what works, with or without a recipe. With practice, estimates and weight can be seen and felt not measured. By taking risks we learn to improvise. We begin to loosen our grasp on doubt, outcome and over-reasoning.  We are on the path of creating endless possibilities with food. It’s risky business.

  1. Let go of recipes…

It’s true, cooking food requires parts, labor and process, but who ever said it had to be so mechanical. It wasn’t always so. Recipes and cookbooks are a great starting point to inspire creativity. They are guides that we are free to follow and diverge from at the same time, any time. Becoming too reliant on recipes can defuse our creative spark and tone down the fun. (And who wants that?) Once non-existent, recipes were either passed down orally and/or written in prose detailed with… mere approximations. It’s safe to say that precision wasn’t necessarily the point. It’s where desire and observation make eye contact, the creative stuff that food traditions are made of. Chances are grandmom’s stew has been duplicated, but not so exactly. As much as it is alike, it’s different. When we let go some of recipes, our attempt at imitation becomes not so much about perfection, but satisfaction.

  1. Hold on to methods

It could be as simple as knowing the difference between dry and wet cooking. Whether it’s  knowing the difference between baking, broiling, roasting, braising, how long we should cook a vegetables or protein for it to be ready, or that toasting seeds will give us a more robust flavor, we are creating space for play, and for options. Having a grasp on method, and a clear sense about how the methods will create change, can make or break what we consider to be good food. It helps to cut the chase between the ingredient and the result. Methods can help us with the hows of cooking: how to make food easier to digest, and more palatable.

  1. Let go of preconceived notions

While it’s good to know that a bean and grain creates a complete protein, choosing which beans and grains to pair and how to season it, should be in your hands. There is no definitive way to pair your favorite foods despite the latest trends. Unless you’re in business, what someone else thinks about your food is none of your business, what you think about your food is what matters most. You are your own judge. Own the power of your senses by figuring out what good food feels like to you, versus what someone else has suggested and determined for you. It’s your kitchen, your rules.

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Cranberry-Pomegranate Chutney over Butternut Spinach Mash created by letting go…

  1. Be compassionate…

towards yourself as you are growing in the kitchen and learning about the ingredients, and what happens to them based on what method of cooking you choose; as you are refining your palate, deviating from recipes, making mistakes and breaking new ground within and in your kitchen. Be gentle with yourself and infuse whatever you create with this compassion.

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