There is a certain duality to my personality which I’m sure drives everyone who knows me crazy.
Now, every endeavor or facet of life has art to it, and science. We have many words for this duality. Left brain/right brain. Art/Science. Mars/Venus . In Christianity we call it Spirit / Truth .
Most of us have an engineer and an artist inside us, with one of them being the boss. Not me. My scientific and artistic sides are almost totally equal – at this point in my life, they have reached an uneasy cease-fire, and have even learned to cooperate somewhat.
(As an aside, I think this is where nm and I don’t see eye to eye about music. I equally appreciate the artistry AND craft of songwriting and recording. This is why I consider Dylan (artistry) and Phil Collins (craft) to both be masters)
Let me tell you a secret that successful people follow (in any undertaking): master the science, and allow the art to master you. Know everything there is to know about whatever it is you are doing, but use that knowledge as a sail, not an anchor. Create, but do so only after you understand the foundations on which you create.
I swear, if I didn’t claim Jesus Christ as Lord, I’d probably gravitate to Buddhism.
I’m digressing from where i wanted to go with this, but I think my two sides are having an argument right now.
What I wanted to tell you is that I’ve ordered a book I wish I had ordered years ago. It’s called On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. I think it will bring balance back into my “cooking” life.
Up till now, my time in the kitchen has been by the seat of my pants, fearlessly trying this ingredient or that method, many times with good results, many times causing my family to pay the price. The Artist has had full control, with the Engineer only being an onlooker. I think that reading this book will correct that. The synopsis at Amazon:
A classic tome of gastronomic science and lore, On Food and Cooking delivers an erudite discussion of table ingredients and their interactions with our bodies. Following the historical, literary, scientific and practical treatment of foodstuffs from dairy to meat to vegetables, McGee explains the nature of digestion and hunger before tackling basic ingredient components, cooking methods and utensils. He explains what happens when food spoils, why eggs are so nutritious and how alcohol makes us drunk. As fascinating as it is comprehensive, this is as practical, interesting and necessary for the cook as for the scholar.
I’ve learned from young Jedi Alton Brown, now I need to learn from Yoda himself. It’s my understanding that On Food and Cooking may be the single most in-depth study of food science ever assembled. If I can learn the “whys” of ingredients and techniques, then, just like in music, improvisation will be (pardon the pun) a piece of cake.
This may take a while to get through, but I’ll let you know how it goes.