Saturday, March 30, 2024

Why I Don't Taste While I Cook

I never taste food as I cook. You’re supposed to, as a cardinal rule. But I don't.

Tasting is the way to maintain consistency. Ensure all dials are at calibrated settings. Standardize. Bring this up, and that down. Regress to the mean.

You won't achieve deliciousness by bringing this up and that down. If that were possible, a robot could do it, which means MacDonald's would be scrumptious. A Taco Bell Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme® would make you ball up your fists and moan with delight. But you can’t calibrate your way to deliciousness.

In a restaurant, dishes need to taste the same night after night. Consistency is king. And many home chefs are foolish enough to try to recreate the restaurant experience. I don't get it. It'll never be as good! You don't have the prep help, the equipment, or the tens of thousands of iterations! Yet they stand there, needlessly calibrating - bringing this up and that down - like a restaurant, or a robot, or a restaurant robot. Oblivious to their freedom to cultivate serendipity.

My home cooking is never the same twice, and thank goodness for that. I won't tire of it. If I've salted a bit less tonight, intentionally or not, fine! Just a different vibe. A little ascetic this time. Because I always cook with care, it will rarely be outside the envelope of deliciousness. Tonight’s a little more buttery; a bit less spicy, that's all. Still good. And randomization sparks ideas for future modification. Wow, I like it with more onions!

Being human, on rare occasions I'll miss the envelope of deliciousness. This happens when I'm not careful. Usually because I feel so careful - hey, I'm Mr. Meticulous! - that I forget to actually be careful. If I egregiously over or under season, to a point beyond tolerable variation and into the realm of ruin, because I'm not careful, that will never be the only problem. The whole dish will be off in myriad aspects from lack of care, and that’s not repairable. You can't reverse entropy. You won’t put Humpty together again.

So that meal, ok, will be a "6" or "7" (consider my surprisingly non-ditzy system for rating foods and other things from one to ten), not my usual "8" or maaaaybe "9". But tasting wouldn't have rescued it, because there's no rescuing sloppy.

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