Sunday, November 06, 2005

In Praise of Culinary Genius

I can cook, and when I do, I do a decent job of it. Still, cooking isn't something I have a particular passion for. Kathy, however, likes to cook, so she's the one who usually does it (leaving me to handle clean up). She'll occasionally trot out a new recipe after we've had it when eating out (e.g., Vietnamese vegetarian spring rolls), but for the most part, she cooks variants on the usual. I have no complaints with this, as it's tasty stuff, which is why it's the usual stuff.

Last night Kathy must have felt particularly inspired, and made what I guess should be described as Pork Masala, a Indian dish using a meat you'd never find at an Indian restaurant. Aside from being delicious, and the pork being incredibly tender, what amazed me most was that she didn't follow a recipe, even though she'd never made a masala before. She knew what it tasted like, and spiced accordingly -- tomato sauce, vegetable broth, onions, garlic, clove, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, curry, ginger, and so forth. You'd never guess that she wasn't meticulously following a recipe from an Indian cookbook. Actually, you might, because it tasted better than it would were she someone who was dependent on closely following a recipe for the first time.

Kathy doesn't think it's a big deal, and doesn't know why I'm making a fuss about it. I, however, feel I'm simply ackowledging a particular kind of genius. I can make something based on how I think flavors will work together, grabbing spices here and there and making something that ultimately tastes good. Kathy's ability to concoct a meal based on her having tried it, and thereby identifying the spices and how they should work together, is something wholly beyond me. That I am the beneficiary of such talent makes my appreciation all the greater.