By definition, cooking is the manipulation of food to make it softer, easy to chew and digest. It renders food more
flavourful and possibly more attractive.
Presentation of food on the plate represents the art. The length of exposing food to heat another aspect of presentation and involves art. (Burnt food lacks eye-appeal as well as pleasant taste).
“Chemical cooking” as is the case with ceviche (marinated seafood in an acid solution) and garvlax (cured with salt, sugar, pepper, and dill) applies to acids breaking down protein.
Like everything else, cooking is subject to natural laws, and can be controlled, but the cook must know how to do it. Once the science of cookery is understood before starting the process, guesswork turns to control.
is not simply about following a recipe. Recipes are little more than “roadmaps” but cannot ensure that you will reach your destination. Roadmaps cannot tell you road and weather conditions and how much traffic you will encounter.
Any recipe will not and cannot you how much water content of the tomato, or the dryness of lentils. In both cases, if you fail to adjust the water content, the result will be less than ideal.
Then you must pay attention to the intensity of the fire and the ability of heat conduction and distribution of the cooking vessel. The best way to navigate in the kitchen is to learn as much as you can about chemistry, anatomy, mathematics, biology, physics, geography, history, sociology, and raw ingredients.
Chemistry helps us understand the chemical makeup and proceed accordingly.
Anatomy will enable the cook to choose the most appropriate method of cooking i.e pan-frying or sautéing breast of chicken versus legs for stewing or braising.
Mathematics helps the cook understand proportionality and balancing quantities. In large batches, ingredients react to each other differently.
Biology informs us why veal bones yield better tasting stocks than beef bones and what happens to chlorophyll when coking in an acid environment.
Physics allows us to regulate the intensity of heat by regulating the fire, sautéing, and transfer of heat, just to name a few characteristics.
Geography helps us to judge the intensity of taste we can expect. A hothouse grown tomato tastes much milder than one grown in the field and which is subjected to diurnal temperature changes.
History helps the cook to interpret all ingredients or components of the equation. A recipe is an equation in proportionality. It also helps us understand why heavy spicing was, and partially is today popular.
Sociology informs us about cultures and what people generally eat. Pork recipes are abundant in western and Far Eastern cuisines, but never mentioned in Muslim countries or Jewish cookbooks. Other foods that are shunned by Muslims and Jews are shellfish, wild animals, certain parts of beef, certain fish species etc.
Once you understand or at least are familiar with all the above and strive to be a good cook and practise a lot, you will enjoy spectacular food.
Troigros, a famous French restaurant owner and chef said is best “ You do not know how to cook a recipe until you have cooked it a thousand times”.