Kitchen & Pantry

No, frying fish is not the same as frying SPAM fried-butterflied-mudfish

Why is there a separate “how to cook” section? Because that, for me, is more important than recipes. I can almost see you pausing and wondering what the heck that means. Isn’t a recipe essentially a how to cook guide? No, it isn’t. A recipe is a list of ingredients and a procedure. A recipe is something you follow. A recipe does not teach you to let your imagination soar so you can be creative enough to cook without a recipe. That is something you learn by understanding what cooking is about and why the kitchen is a playground with no boundaries.

I know that a lot of readers appreciate the “how to cook” section. I just have to look at the number of times that a post is shared in social media networks and, well, that should speak for itself. It may not be of equal interest to those who are already adept with cooking basics but I cannot presume that all the people who browse the web for cooking lessons and land on my blog are more in the “intermediate” level rather than the “newbie” level.

So, came this comment from a reader. spam

I would have given it a decent response BUT, the thing is, a few other comments were posted in other articles within minutes of each other where the commenters, all bearing different names and email addresses, had the same IP address. All the comments were couched with the same vein of sarcasm. I don’t know which is the legit email address, just in case it is the one used to post the above comment, I blocked it out — I do take privacy concerns seriously even if others don’t. The text of the comment is highlighted. I just marked all the comments as spam. Trolls, obviously.

Then, earlier this evening, I was tagged on Facebook by Sam’s high school friend, Joan. She shared the how to prevent fish from sticking to the pan during frying to her friends after a fish-frying disaster. Their fish, during frying, looked like this: Joan dela Cruz fried fish

But the important thing is that even after failing, Joan bothered to find out why. And that comes with the presumption that she wants to learn from her mistake so that she won’t repeat it again. And that, for me, is the right attitude in learning anything — including cooking. That is certainly more useful — and smart — than the comment posted by Melissa101 above. So, I thought I’d write about why there is a “how to cook” section and, for context, I dug up that Melissa101’s comment from my email (I get an email alert for every comment posted in all my blogs).

HOW TO COOK is two things. It is science. And it is art. In the kitchen, everyone has the capacity to become Da Vinci who was both a scientist and an artist, as well as an inspiring visionary.

Cooking is science. It is biology and chemistry and physics. Every ingredient is either an organism, a derivative of an organism or a chemical. How they all come together to become a delicious dish is both a chemical and physical reaction. Just like the science experiment in high school, cooking involves observations from which conclusions are drawn.

Cooking is art and an artist has to have both the skill as well as the eye, the ear, the nose and the sense of taste. It is about mixing and matching flavors, aromas, colors and textures in ways where they blend or contrast. The pot and the frying pan are blank canvasses that you want to fill with the most exciting things that arouse the senses.

Beyond the science and the art, cooking is about love and passion — the two things that differentiate brilliant cooks from the merely competent ones. A dish can be perfectly cooked and perfectly decorated but if it was executed without soul, then, it is as pedestrian and as lackluster as the burger from a fast-food outlet, and as commonplace as a cupcake that came out of a factory.

And last but certainly not the least, cooking is about courage. Cowards, especially the kind who are afraid of making mistakes and failing, don’t make good cooks.

So, to Joan and others like her who dare to learn from their mistakes, and to those who had a role in cooking that fish (Keane Landoy, Anne Vitug, Shane Marante and Jan Lisondra), salut!

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