5 Considerations For Recipe Success
Recipes Worth Repeating
One of the great questions I have regarding making recipes is this: what causes the recipe to hit the list of "do over"? I have been making dinners and preparing appetizers for friends and family for over 20 years now. One of the great joys of doing this is the idea of serving people and seeing the joy on their faces as they try new foods.
As I reflect on the things I've tried over the years, I can think of at 5 things that help elevate recipes to the "rock star" status.
Power of Taste - This one is obvious. The food that's prepared has to taste good - that's pretty simple to go with. One of the great delights we have in the industrialized world is the fact that we can pretty much eat anthing we want. If we are hungry for Italian food, we go eat at the Italian restaurant down the street. If we want Mexican food, we go to our favorite place (I've been eating quite regularly out of taco trucks here in California! These taco trucks have some great items on the menu and for a few bucks, one can eat like a king!). Now don't ask me what some of this food does to your health but boy does it ever taste great!
Taste is something that can develop over a lifetime. As a young boy growing up, there were many foods I didn't like, and by just trying them a little at a time, I grew to really love them. Things like onions and tomatoes, broccoli and spinach, these were all vegetables that were enemy number one. Sometimes something as simple as adding salt can do wonders for a dish. There's nothing like bland food and just some salt and pepper can really bring out the natural flavors of a dish.
Power of Ingredients - Whatever we end up making, we need to ensure that we are using the best ingredients. I've become a very selective shopper while looking for ingredients for what's going to be on the menu. I used to pick up the first piece of fruit I could reach for, or the first tomato I picked up, that was the one I was going to use. Not anymore, I have learned to pick the fruit up and inspect the product - if it doesn't pass the smell test or looks like it been through the ringer, then it doesn't go in the bag. Seasonal ingredients like basil and sage for instance, all taste much better in the summer. The stores offer a lot of products that we are fortunate to be able to buy, but the fresh ingredients we get in the spring through Fall are tremendous! Depending on where you live in the world will dictate what's available during a given season. I happen to live in the heart of one of the most productive agriculture regions in the world and we are able to get fruit and vegetables that are superb. As we roll into June, one of the fruits we get is cherries. These come in late May and usually by end of June, they are gone. These are some of the best things we can get and we try to take advantage of a few of the varieties.
Power of Memories - I think food and the recipes we enjoy are highly correlated to the memories we have of the times we spend with our friends and family. The power of "memory" and what we are eating as we visit with our friends is a very underrated emotion when it comes to our passion to make a recipe over.
I can think of one occasion a few years ago as we were down in Southern California for a graduation party. The house we were at sat high above the hills and looked down at the valley below and the panoramic view was beautiful. As we sat around the pool and watched the sunset, the Mexican caterer worked magic with his salsas, homemade tortillas, and beef and pork had been marinated and cooked to perfection. It was at that moment that I realized how the memory of the scenery, the surroundings, the company and the food, all contributed to a very memorable event! So I believe the memories we create as we try recipes on our company also have a very powerful driving force to make it again.
Power of Smell - how about the smell of a wonderful apple pie as it comes out of the oven? Hhow about Chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven? The smell of vanilla and chocolate wafting through the kitchen? Or how about the smell of garlic bread as the butter and garlic come together and create a very home like atmosphere that instantly can put the most tense guest "at ease".
My mother is a great cook and the smell of the kitchen and what she might be making that day can create some powerful incentives to what to make whatever she's making again! I definitely think the smell of the dish has a powerful correlation to making the recipe over, there's no doubt about it.
Plating and Serving - I guess the restaurants can't all be wrong as they pick a lot of plates to serve their meals. There is something fun about how food is served on a plate. The idea of getting out of the every day run-of-the-mill type of serving we do of our daily meals and breaking into a whole new way of serving food, this is very appealing! I can think of Creme Brulee and the torch that's lit to carmelize the sugar and cream. This is served in a very tiny round dish and isn't served on a big clumsy plate. How about ice cream and drizzling chocolate around the bowl it served in? Doesn't that elevate the status of the dish and the taste of the dish in our eyes? Of course it does or else the restaurants wouldn't be "wowing" us with all the extra efforts. Watch a table next to you as deserts are served in weird and perhaps artistic ways. Watch the eyes of those are about to devour the desert and take not of the presentation. I know this sounds crazy but if you really think about it, it's true.
Synergy and Summary
I know there's more things that I've listed here as being big influencers of whether we will make the same recipe twice. I've made a lot of recipes that I won't ever make again. I guess you can chalk it up for experience but it really didn't have the "wow factor". One powerful dynamic that occurs is the synergy of all these different factors. The more the ingredients, taste, smell etc all play together and work together, the more powerful the recipe. I posted the question in the forum and one of the main things people said about the repeating recipe is the memory of the meal. Quite a few posted comments that mentioned a time when "mom made something very good" and could you send the recipe to me, I'm lonely!
I used to live in Virginia Beach and I was a long ways from home. I would call mom up and ask for certain recipes that had become embedded in my brain, the memory factor of the event that evoked warm memories of home.
I hope this article spurs people to consider some of these ideas as you prepare your meals throughout this new year. I know you will have certain party's and BBQ's and events that will include food. Take note of some of these things and see if they don't remind you of what we all feel is important: the memories of food, of home, and of love shared with friends and family.