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Hometown Foodie – Do You Cook By The Book Or Do You Experiment?

#foodie-all – by Ellen Britt.

Some people cook strictly “by the book” following recipes down to the last ingredient. I have never been one of those people. Often, if I am trying a recipe for the first time, I will do my best to follow it to the letter, and then make changes afterward.

But many times, I’ll see an ingredient and just start shaking my head “Oh no, I’m not putting that in!” It’s not that I am not adventurous, but I know myself and my tastes well. I’ve been cooking a long time and sometimes there is only so far one can go. Like a recipe I saw once for a Southern BBQ sauce in it that called for ginger powder. 

Full stop. No. Just no.

But back to the experimentation. Lately I have been wanting to try my hand at making kimchi, a Korean spicy hot fermented condiment used as an accompaniment to everything from rice to noodles. 

Instead of Napa cabbage, which it’s traditionally made from, I’m going to use Southern collards, which I wrote about making in yesterday’s Hometown Foodie column.

Plus, instead of the traditional fish sauce used in kimchi, I am going to make my own plant based one, using seaweed as one of the ingredients to give it that “fishy” taste. 

To do this, I’ve looked at several recipes for kimchi. Then I took the parts that seem right to me and I’ll make up my own version, then try it out and adjust from there. 

I often think to myself while I’m in the kitchen that I am happiest when I am cooking. One of the reasons I find cooking so satisfying is that it is such a creative art. And unlike many other creative endeavors, you get to see (and taste!) the results of your work right away.

I particularly love to experiment with “fusion” foods…where you combine elements of one culture’s food traditions with another, like I am doing with Southern collards and Korean kimchi.

So if you are one of those good folks who feels insecure about deviating from a recipe, I would encourage you to try and shake things up a bit. Look at a recipe you know well and think about how you might change up some of the ingredients, or even the cooking technique itself.

Who knows? You just might come up with something you like better than the original. Let’s eat y’all…!