Saturday, March 24, 2012

Culinary Quote Archive (Part 3): On Cajun Cooking Philosophy

"Cajun-Creole foods are steadfastly un-trendy. The adherents of the cuisine could care less what color peppercorns are "in" this year, or what obscure fruit has been discovered on a remote South Pacific island to command five dollars apiece in New York markets. And now for the big jolt to the world of haughty or 'haute' cuisine. It doesn't even matter if you use canned artichoke bottoms or garlic powder or premixed Cajun-Creole seasonings. The taste of the completed dish is the final judge. If it tastes wonderful, isn't that what it's all about?" -Terry Thompson from her Cajun-Creole Cookbook 

My aspirations for culinary advancement are enormous, and for this reason I sometimes find myself forgetting my roots, what it means to cook for the pure enjoyment of the food. Although I stand by my decision to forgo culinary school and teach myself through any and all means possible, I have noticed that I often push myself to experiment with more advanced or unusual ingredients and techniques just to see what I can do. I've completely amazed myself with some of the things I've accomplished as a result of this trial by fire method, but I know I need sentiments like these to bring me back to the way I really enjoy cooking. My Cajun heart beats for something lard and flour based, something with plenty of flavor, seasoned to taste by a cook raised to simply know when their food is good and ready. 

As a girl, I was too naive and lazy to get into the kitchen with my mother, the cook in the family, but somehow, the first pot of red beans and rice I made on my own was still perfect. It was something I was raised eating, and when I cooked it, I just knew I was doing it right. I was surrounded by my closest friends, swooning over the smells of smoked ham hocks infusing their flavor into the slowly softening beans. That smell is one I will always be able to recognize, and it is one that I hope only to experience in the presence of my most beloved. Cajun cuisine is one of those things I have always known to be enjoyed best with anyone who happens to be around and hungry. It excites an undeniable sense of community in all who appreciate the spirit of the food and the culture that inspired it, and for that reason, I can never imagine holding another cuisine in higher regard. No matter where my culinary career ultimately takes me, I can only strive to remember that if my food tastes wonderful and my loved ones are around to enjoy it with me, that's what it's all about. 

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