Monday, February 28, 2011

Refraining from Redux

On the heels of my post about this Moroccan orange salad, I found Recipe Redux columnist Amanda Hesser's final column. And what do you know; apparently I'm not alone in preferring a vintage recipe to a contemporary version:
Chefs, who are never shy about voicing their opinions, were often disappointed in the old recipes...Readers, on the other hand, almost universally preferred the old recipes to the new. The techniques were often simple and approachable, and the sentimental value of classics like chocolate mousse is immeasurable. The column, then, somewhat to my surprise, demonstrated that despite our hunger for the new, new, new, we’re even more ravenously interested in the old, old, old. But when you think about it, it makes sense: if we always had new types of food at home, we would lose touch with an essential part of our personal histories.
I love bizarre flavors and challenging dishes when eating out, but I believe that homemade recipes should taste homey. The most successful recipes I've made are almost always my mother's: a brisket spiked with ketchup and apricots; a turkey breast soaked in Manischewitz; a pile of roasted veggies crusted with Italian dressing. Overly experimental food from a home cook can be off-putting at the dinner table, like a sparkly cocktail dress at a house party. Though some folks can pull off that look (i.e. my pal A., who looks smashing in sequins for any occasion) it's not for most of us. Cooking for others is a balance between making an effort and trying too hard. And there's also something wonderful about sharing food that has personal relevance, like that recipe from your mom instead of some snooty chef.

I'd get bored if I never experimented, and you as a reader would, too. But if you ever see me getting too swept up by experimentation, let me know in the comments. I've been sitting on a third-generation Clothed Cook family recipe for Hamburger Hot Dog Casserole that I'd love to share, no redux required.

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