Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Difference an Experienced (Jaded?) Palette Makes

My sister sent us 4 fillets mignon from a famous mail-order steak place for Christmas. Bill and I had two of them Christmas weekend and were, frankly, unimpressed. Yes, they were well aged and tender but didn't taste like much. Is it because they really didn't taste like much or because we are used to eating tougher cuts which develop more flavor like flank steak? Anyway, we had two more steaks to eat this weekend so I decided to pull out a recipe I had fond memories of from long ago.

The recipe for tournedos Renata is from The International Color Guide to World Cookery, a 1970s hodge podge of what were to me then, exotic, vaguely European recipes. The steaks are seasoned with salt, pepper, marjoram, and thyme. The mushrooms are cooked in brandy and cream. Thirty-plus-years-ago, I was WOWed -- or so it says in my handwriting all over the recipe.

Last night, I was bored. Looking back, I think I was wowed then and bored now because it was different from the food I grew up with. Cooking mushrooms with butter not margarine, real garlic, cream, and brandy would have been a new taste sensation for me. Not now. Now, this is pretty basic.

I've got to give that book credit. It taught me to make a tower of profiteroles aux chocolat and that pasta could be made from scratch -- although its cannelloni filling tasted like really high quality Alpo. It started me on the cooking adventure that continues to this day.

So, I will keep my well-worn copy of The International Color Guide to World Cookery, not so much for its recipes but for its memories.

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Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.