Cooking Without a Recipe (or Attack of the Honey Bees)

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have access to good ingredients and time and loved ones to feed and, most importantly, Food Network. So I’ve gotten pretty good at sensing food, knowing how much salt and pepper are needed, what flavors go well together, how long to let things simmer – basically I can cook without a recipe. It’s not always a success but, honestly, I don’t remember the failures. They settle deep in the mind as lessons that eventually manifest as cooking intuition. Unless they’re spectacular failures, in which case they become funny stories to tell at a party. Like the time I spawned a fearsome creature of the deep while trying to make caramels.

iPhone 043

And then turned from my monstrosity to realize six bees had gotten in, drawn by the smell of cooking sugar. I am irrationally afraid of bees so six angry, confused ones zooming around my tiny apartment induced a minor panic attack. I immediately went to go hide in my bed then realized after ten minutes that no one was going to come save me. I lived alone and I had things to do and I couldn’t hide forever. By then, the bees had congregated near a window and I was able to kill them pretty easily, one by one, with a rolled up magazine.

iPhone 047It was sad – honeybees clearly aren’t houseflies, they don’t expect to be smashed from behind and I could see them wiggling and touching each other, probably trying to figure out how to get themselves out of this dodgy situation. But I didn’t know what else to do and I didn’t want to get stung. I still feel slightly guilty about it…

All this to say, you should try it some time! Try cooking something you’ve made a few times before, glance at the recipe to remind yourself of the ingredients, then put the recipe away and see if you can cook without it. Add seasonings slowly, tasting as you go. The more you practice, the better you get. And eventually you get in a zone, where you’re really in tune with your food and your gut and your senses instead of glancing at instructions every two minutes. You may come to enjoy cooking more, who knows?

This ABSOLUTELY does not work with baking, by the way, that’s all about science and chemical reactions. I always meticulously measure and follow the rules with baking, which is probably why I don’t enjoy it as much as I do cooking. Too bad I enjoy the results of baking so much…

 

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