you don’t need a recipe

The cookbook, as we know it, is a modern thing.

For most of history, people didn’t follow written recipes for daily cooking, relying on oral tradition, along with using their intuition and senses (and whatever ingredients they happened to have available).

In a world where consistency and uniformity are valued over individuality and imperfection, one of the side effects of this is, of course, waste. Misshapen veg that grocery stores won’t buy, bycatch in the fishing industry. Another side effect is a lack of diversity in our diets (in part because most foods commercially available have been grown/bred for efficiency and disease resistance over flavour or diversity; also in part because we consume more commercial foods and much less wild and wild-fermented foods, which contain drastically higher varieties and quantities of nutrients and microbes than their commercial counterparts). But another side effect, and one that I think is perhaps even more detrimental, is that people have become disconnected from the process of making their food.

I believe that preparing food is a time to connect not only with the ingredients, and those who have produced/gathered/prepared them, but also a time to connect with past generations, building on this communal knowledge of food and cooking. Sharing food, sharing knowledge, sharing in this ritual. This is what it is to be human.

Following recipes verbatim you may learn that recipe, but it’s possible that you may not learn to cook. Rather than specific measurements and exact science, cooking is, I believe, about learning a few basics and then trusting yourself, trusting your senses. This is the experience of cooking, one of wholeness.

Taste often. Season to taste. Take a risk. Trust yourself.

Your dishes will be different from day to day, but you will learn what works. And like they say, variety is the spice of life.