I don’t care if Gluttony is one of the ‘Seven Deadlies’…a satisfied palette and a full stomach are important ingredients in my personal recipe for a happy, healthy life!
Selecting food from a menu in Peru is always an adventure…you never know what you’re really gonna get when trying a new restaurant. A perfect steak could be topped with a mayonnaise based sauce, a fried egg and a cut up “sausage” or rather a hot dog, and it’s not even a good hot dog. Don’t get me wrong, the food in Peru is excellent, one just need know where to find it, hence my adventure.
Selecting food at the market is a whole different story, particularly in Cusco where most of the ingredients are fresh, raw or unprocessed. The amount of ingredients at the market, and I don’t mean grocery store, is nothing short of overwhelming and provides the cook with endless options for experiments. Kiwicha, chuno, maca ..what what?? The cook can purchase any part of many animals, endless varieties of potato and grain, perfect plump tomatoes, the sweetest mango and carrots the size of your fist, but don’t think the cook will find basics… like lemons, cheeses, sour cream, molasses, brown sugar, jalapenos or maple syrup. Spices can be difficult to track down. Our favorite brand name products are unavailable beyond Marlboro, Coca Cola, Doritos and Nestle. And the cook can forget about finding anything ethnic, except for some Asian or other South American products. So while food in Peru is farm fresh and perfect, the variety…well, I could argue that there isn’t any. Thus, my adventure in cooking has brought me right back to the basics. The techniques I learned in cooking school have proven invaluable to surviving in an unprocessed world.
Of course availability affects what’s cooking in our kitchen but most of my recipes stem from cravings… that dull, empty feeling for something specific…tangy but spicy, sweet and soft, or crispy fried to crunch the craving away. That craving drives me to cook.. and it’s is much more powerful than my aversion to doing the dishes.
If cooking is my meditation, then eating is my passion. I say these things in all seriousness: Cookbooks and food magazines are my pornography. When a waiter presents the Daily Specials, he may as well be propositioning me with a sultry evening of unspeakable pleasures! Trying different recipes and foods stirs up mixed emotions in me… somewhere between the excitement of a new lover and the feeling of adventure brought by traveling to a foreign land.
Serving guests brings me a whole other level of pleasure. I know how much I enjoy eating, so when someone feels compelled to reward me with hugs and praise for my cooking, well… it makes it all worthwhile! My also mom taught me to share. Feeding others and enjoying a meal together is the seasoning in my recipe for a happy, healthy life!
From the time I could see over the stove top, my mother taught me the pleasures of preparing and serving food. We made everything with love, and from scratch, so I had a solid foundation when I entered cooking school at 20 years old. My first job was primarily as a Pastry Chef with occasional Garde Manger duties at a prestigious Chicago restaurant, which is now closed. From there I learned all there is to know about my favorite food… cake… and soon I became a Master Decorator for Wilton Industries. I only worked food related jobs for a few years, because I realized that no matter how much I enjoy the kitchen, when I am chained to the oven 12 hours a day, 6 days a week…the enjoyment factor disappears, like a cold margarita on a hot summer evening.
I no longer cook professionally, per se. That is, I don’t have a job. I do however on occasion serve guests who stay with us and because everything is unprocessed, I cook everyday… lest Tio and I subsist on potato chips and raw carrots.
Gastronomy isn’t limited to food, it also includes refreshments. Mixology ranks as king when it comes to kitchen experiments! Whether you’re talking Bloody Mary’s or Pineapple Ginger Tea, mixing drinks is both an art and a science. The results can turn a good meal into great, with just one sip of the perfect refreshing flavor.