If you follow me on Twitter (and you should: @ARFoodie), you’ve heard me blather on about how much I enjoy my Professional Food Writing course at Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School.
As much as I relish the hectic kitchen time in Baking I, Food Writing is the yin to the other’s yang. In this class, we study the art of food-related writing in its many forms, including restaurant reviews and food blogging. But mainly, we study good writing itself: the artful turn of a phrase, proper use of (and restraint with) adjectives, bringing an environment to life on paper.
Under the able tutelage of Kelley Bass, who has written about food for several central Arkansas publications, we practice each week with both take-home and in-class writing exercises. We will also have several guest speakers over the course of the, er, course, the first of whom yesterday was the fantastic Kat Robinson of the Eat Arkansas and Tie Dye Travels blogs. (Glad to finally meet you in person, Kat! Can I be you when I grow up?)
As for the writing assignments, of course, I decided to get double-duty out of some of mine. The following is my response to a recent assignment with the required topic of “I Cook, Therefore I Am.”
As I sit down to write just now, I am indulging in a little treat: vanilla ice cream covered with chipotle chocolate ganache, which I made a few days ago.
I can’t help but be a little pleased with myself. The ganache was an experiment of my own, steeping locally-grown smoked chipotle peppers in cream before adding the chopped chocolate. The finished, solid product, melted then drizzled (OK, dumped) on top of the frozen ice cream, has hardened a bit into a toothsome chocolate masterpiece. Sweet. Spicy. Melty. Chewy.
It’s just this kind of feeling that makes cooking such a joy to me — making something new and unexpected from the most basic of ingredients. I have always been the creative type, expressing myself in some form of the arts. It was about ten years ago that I realized cooking was simply another art, an exercise in creation.
This bent for creating is likely the reason I prefer the most basic, “scratch” ingredients. If at all possible, I don’t want anyone else having any of the fun, or any of the credit, for that matter. I also believe this method of cooking to be more healthful, since I am trying to cut down on the number of processed-food additives my family consumes.
And besides, I just enjoy the longhand process, what I jokingly call the “Zen” of cooking. Having a stressful day? How about making a couple loaves of bread and a cassoulet? I’ll be just fine by dinnertime, as long as someone helps me clean up.
This month marks a leaping point of sorts for me in my cooking role. For years, this role has been prominent in the background, something I was known for but a distant second to other pursuits. Now, it’s official: I am a culinary student. I am on my way to becoming a professional in the industry. It has changed the very definition of who I am and what I do.
I create, invent, experiment and learn. I challenge steadfast notions and, at the same time, honor the classics. I teach, share and encourage.
I cook, therefore I am.