Thursday, December 17, 2009

In the kichen, are you an artist or a scientist?


Baking and making dough is a science; without the exact measurements your dough just won't look or taste right... and who wants that! Perhaps it's my preference for the creative that leaves me more comfortable cooking. When you're making dinner do you toss in a little of everything until it tastes right or do you follow your recipes exactly? The other day at lunch I was trying to tell some coworkers how I had made my turkey soup. Suddenly, I realized I sounded like my Grandma Suczynski.

"Well, you put the turkey in the pot, cover with water, throw in some veggies, maybe add chicken stock or bullion cubes, boil it for a while...."

Riiiiiiiight, that's not really a recipe is it? I remember my aunt saying that it was like pulling teeth to get Grandma to write down her pierogi recipe for us. Even when she did put it into words the recipe read "add a couple drops of water until the dough looks just right." As it turns out grandma was onto something with these directions. When I first tried to make pierogis I started to read the recipe and thought, oh dear! I looked at the lack of measurements followed by scribbled in notes from my mom & aunts about how much of certain ingredients they had used. After several pierogi attempts myself, I learned that if the dough is so sticky that you can just barely roll it out - than it's perfect! The stickiest dough will make the most tender pierogis.

As I was photographing Mary Ann Esposito's cooking class here at Stonewall Kitchen I had my ah ha moment. She said, "Take a look at the size of the egg that they have given me! The recipe called for a medium egg, but that looks small to me!" She went on to explain that because the egg was smaller we were going to need less flour for our dough. (Less liquid used = less flour needed) Finally, I understood. I really hope Grandma Suczynski was taking a peek down at me from heaven to see me when everything clicked. At last, I know how to make the dough so it "looks just right" and why!


As a photographer, I'm an artist by trade, but perhaps we can all use a little mix of artist and scientist when we are in the kitchen. This Holiday season don't miss out on the chance copy down your own family recipes... even if you have to stop grandma in the midst of "a pinch of this" to try and measure it!

Speaking of the holidays, our tips end tomorrow! Don't forget to check in today to see some great options for napkin folding.

1 comment:

  1. Great question, and topic! I'm both...As a professional recipe developer, I'm a scientist, but in my heart, I'm an artist. The more time I spend in the kitchen, the more the artist fights to express herself, and the more I let her, the better things seem to taste. Our grandmother's would probably say that inner artist is love for the people we cook for, and why they seemed to suggest that the particulars of weight and volume matter far less than we all think. Perhaps then, the question of science v. art is trumped by this--in the kitchen, do you cook with joy and love? If yes, then your food will surely show it.

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