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It seems to me, from some recent discussion in Mongo's Indian Home Recipes thread and also some off-board conversations I've had with my bud joethefoodie during Quarantine, that there are two different approaches to home cooking among Dedicated Food People like us.

One school, I would say, tries to replicate restaurant cooking at home.   They try to make recipes as "authentically" as they can.  Especially when dealing with "foreign" (to us) cuisines, they shy away from substituting ingredients.  They don't mind using very exacting and, if necessary, time-consuming techniques.

The other school looks at cooking as a way to get food onto the home table.  Speaking for myself, I put together meals two ways:  I think of dishes to be made over the course of the week as I walk around the Greenmarket every Saturday and see what's available; or I look at what I have in my larder and think of what I can do with it.  This means a lot of substitutions from "classic" recipes.  Because I'm cooking from what I have.  And it means employing a lot of shortcuts, cuz, well, I have other things to do.  (The key to knowing how to cook, I've come to understand now that I think I know how to cook, is knowing which substitutions and shortcuts will work.)  (I'd even go so far as to say that the substitutions are what make it fun:  what's the fun in slavishly following a recipe?)

I think my difference from Joe here is that he's a trained chef and I'm very very much not.  So he takes pride in getting things right in a way that I just don't.  Other people, I don't know.  I can't help but quote the Joker:  "WHY SO SERIOUS?????"

Am I totally off-base here?
 

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Although let me add that you can go too far with the shortcuts if, I guess, you're not a Dedicated Food Person.

I recently saw a Food Blog where the blogger was writing about some recipe that called for pitted green olives.  He went on about how hard it was to find a bottle of pitted green olives that weren't stuffed with something.  Apparently he didn't know that you get pitted green olives by taking green olives and pitting them.  It isn't even hard!

I thought, shit, I'm spending time reading what this guy writes???????????

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i am a home cook. i don't try to do anything the way restaurant kitchens do it.

no matter what cuisine i am cooking, if an ingredient is not to hand and it isn't crucial, i leave it out. if there's a reasonable substitute, i use it. if it's crucial and i don't have it and there's no decent substitute, i make something else. when ingredients are very easy to locate i purchase them and use them. when i have a lot of time i make more painstaking dishes in painstaking ways. usually, i make things in the most convenient possible way. what any of this has to do with authenticity, i'm not sure. 

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43 minutes ago, Sneakeater said:

It seems to me, from some recent discussion in Mongo's Indian Home Recipes thread and also some off-board conversations I've had with my bud joethefoodie during Quarantine, that there are two different approaches to home cooking among Dedicated Food People like us.

A) One school, I would say, tries to replicate restaurant cooking at home.   They try to make recipes as "authentically" as they can.  Especially when dealing with "foreign" (to us) cuisines, they shy away from substituting ingredients.  They don't mind using very exacting and, if necessary, time-consuming techniques.

B) The other school looks at cooking as a way to get food onto the home table.  Speaking for myself, I put together meals two ways:  I think of dishes to be made over the course of the week as I walk around the Greenmarket every Saturday and see what's available; or I look at what I have in my larder and think of what I can do with it.  This means a lot of substitutions from "classic" recipes.  Because I'm cooking from what I have.  And it means employing a lot of shortcuts, cuz, well, I have other things to do.  (The key to knowing how to cook, I've come to understand now that I think I know how to cook, is knowing which substitutions and shortcuts will work.)  (I'd even go so far as to say that the substitutions are what make it fun:  what's the fun in slavishly following a recipe?)

I think my difference from Joe here is that he's a trained chef and I'm very very much not.  So he takes pride in getting things right in a way that I just don't.  Other people, I don't know.  I can't help but quote the Joker:  "WHY SO SERIOUS?????"

Am I totally off-base here?
 

During COVID I'd say I'm 5% in the A School and 95% in the B School. (I added those letters to your quoted post)  

 

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What I meant by linking "authenticity" to restaurant cooking, I meant that someone might say about, say, an attempt at a Mexican dish I might make at home, "you wouldn't get that at a Mexican restaurant."  Well, no.  I'm not trying to make "authentic" Mexican food.  I'm trying to cook dinner.

(I'll repeat that I'm talking about "authenticity", not authenticity.)

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9 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

What I meant by linking "authenticity" to restaurant cooking, I meant that someone might say about, say, an attempt at a Mexican dish I might make at home, "you wouldn't get that at a Mexican restaurant."  Well, no.  I'm not trying to make "authentic" Mexican food.  I'm trying to cook dinner.

I'll start by saying of course - we're all trying to cook dinner and get it on the table (and breakfast and lunch too, in my case), no? Some of us, of course, have more time to accomplish that than others. Some of us have fewer commitments, fewer to no kids, no job, no lawn to mow, no house to paint, no dog to walk, etc. etc. So it makes it "easier" (hah!) to spend more time accruing ingredients, sharpening knives, polishing copper (hah!), using proper kitchen technique, and putting more care into what is going to end up on the plate.

The shortcuts I do take have nothing to do with authenticity, scare quotes or not.  They're learned over years of cooking and yes, being trained and working in pro kitchens. They come in handy, yet believe me, I still fuck up plenty and it's why I was a terrible restaurant line cook...well, that and being way older than I should have when I started.

But we (you and I at least) think very differently vis-a-vis our meals. I never think about a week's worth of meals. I don't buy a week's worth of product at a time (setting aside, of course, the fact the we've all bought like a year's worth of some stuff during confinement).  Sometimes I don't even think about what's happening for dinner until, well, later than I should.

Lately, I've been expanding my "repertoire." Playing with/cooking Japanese food, Sichuan food, and others. And now I'm looking to fool around in my kitchen with Indian food,.  Sadly, I guess, the only points of reference I have for these cuisines (other than a million cookbooks and blogs and websites, etc. etc.) are the restaurants I've dined in - here. Because I've never been to Sichuan and dined there in someone's home. I've never been to Japan and dined there in someone's home. And I've never been to India and dined there in someone's home. So I'd much rather try a recipe (which is interesting, because so much of my cooking is sans recipes, though I'm sure it didn't start that way) from Mongo's blog or from the seminal (imo) Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni, than a recipe from some fancy Indian restaurant, and trying to be authentic.

To me, and to do justice to Mongo's recipe (or Julie Sahni's for that matter), using the right ingredients becomes all important. To me, the cooking and prep part - that's easy. that's meditative. That's fun, actually. So I go out of my way trying to attain every correct ingredient possible to achieve the goal. And my goal, simply, is to make delicious food, that someone in any of those places mentioned above, or France, or Italy, or Spain et al. would be proud to put on their table (at home).

Does this make any sense?

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Because I've made, say, Mexican-inspired dishes where, in the absence of cilantro, I've swapped in combinations of other herbs that I thought would fill a similar space in terms of flavor profile/texture, and friends have told me, "you can't make real Mexican food without cilantro."  And I was like, "I'm not trying to make 'real' Mexican food.  I'm trying to make dinner."

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Because I can't have everything at all times.  I eat alone, and so my usage of fresh ingredients isn't quick.  And I don't have unlimited space.  My apartment is too crammed with books and record albums to begin with.

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