We have so many cooking programs on TV these days it’s become super competitive and the art of cooking has become so much more than it ever used to be.
Top chef and celebrity chefs we have it all. Going to a restaurant means you get more than the average meal plonked on a plate (Well at least most of time anyway!) Meals can be a visual feast as well as a delight to eat. One that sticks in my mind was a fish dish from an award winning restaurant at one of our local vineyards. The description wasn’t particularly appealing but as I was going through a phase of wanting fish (Still do actually!) it was an obvious choice for me. Well what a visual delight it turned out to be, an amazing array of colours and exquisite presentation and amazing to eat too!
Now cooking is not my forte, I can put together a pleasant meal but I’m no gourmet chef, not like one of my daughters who was able to put together a decent breakfast at a very very early age and just ‘knew’ the right herbs and seasonings to use as well!
Cooking what is it? Well if we get back to basics it is the process of preparing food by applying heat. The cook selects and combines ingredients using a wide range of tools and methods. In the process, the flavour, texture, appearance, and chemical properties of the ingredients can change. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Preparing food with heat or fire is an activity unique to human beings, and some scientists believe the advent of cooking played an important role in human evolution. Most anthropologists believe that cooking fires first developed around 250,000 years ago. New inventions and technologies, such as pottery for holding and boiling water, expanded cooking techniques. Some modern cooks apply advanced scientific techniques to food preparation.
Most ingredients in cooking are derived from living things. Vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts come from plants, while meat, eggs, and dairy products come from animals. Cooks also utilise water and minerals such as salt. Cooks can also use wine (I know I certainly do!) in their dishes as an added flavour.
Naturally-occurring ingredients contain various amounts of molecules called proteins, carbohydrates and fats. They also contain water and minerals. Cooking involves a manipulation of the chemical properties of these molecules.
There are very many methods of cooking. These include baking, roasting, sautéing, stewing, frying, grilling, barbecuing, smoking, boiling, steaming and braising. A more recent innovation is microwaving, oh how I remember our first microwave oven, it seemed such a miracle way back then! Various methods use differing levels of heat and moisture and vary in cooking time. The method chosen greatly affects the end result. Some foods are more appropriate to some methods than others.
So where does cooking become an art? There is culinary art which is the art of preparing and/or cooking foods. The word culinary is defined as something related to, or connected with, cooking or kitchens. A chef is a person working in the culinary arts. Culinary artists are responsible for skilfully preparing meals that are as pleasing to the palate as well as to the eye, just like my fish dish I talked about earlier. Increasingly they are required to have knowledge of the science of food and an understanding of diet and nutrition especially since so many of us is now more aware of what we eat or should be eating.
Posted: Tuesday 8 June 2010