Fancy food is big business.
This is nothing new, of course. Chefs have enjoyed celebrity status for ages.
The popularity of chefs rose to a new level when someone had the bright idea to put a camera in a studio kitchen and film a chef preparing his or her favorite dishes, putting personal cooking instruction within reach of the masses in a whole new way.
The voyeuristic experience of watching a chef in the apparently intimate confines of a kitchen led countless people to believe they, too, could cook.
Chefs are also fun to watch.
Perhaps more important than their ability to cook is their ability to entertain an audience.
I recall many times in the days long before I had cooked anything more ambitious than scrambled eggs, watching Julia Child laying down her shtick in the kitchen. She was a riot. My impression of her was always more like someone’s slightly eccentric aunt than a professional chef, but she clearly had a passion for cooking.
Today’s top chefs focus as much on marketing as cooking.
Their books appear on the best-seller lists. They tout their own lines of cookware and cutlery, and may even have their own line of frozen foods for fans who want the finished product without the burden of following the instructions in the celebrity’s cookbook.
This is an exciting time for those who like to cook.
The Internet has provided vast new sources of recipes and cooking instructions.
Scarcely a day goes by when I am not greeted by a new recipe or two on social media.
It’s not uncommon to see a video demonstration of some new culinary creation.
Online friends are constantly pinning and sharing their new favorites.
Yet, despite the practically limitless access to recipes and instructions, I can’t help thinking the best food is still the simplest.
This occurred to me recently while I was throwing together a meal using a few simple things I had on hand.
I do that a lot, living alone at the bachelor pad. It is a distinctly unfussy establishment.
As I thought about it, I realized some of my favorite meals, the ones I have enjoyed the most, have been the kind that were assembled from what was available, rather than from a recipe.
Almost anything can be the basis for a good, basic meal.
I often start with some leftover potatoes.
Perhaps I will add a bit of leftover ham, or part of a roast. I may have some chicken, turkey, or part of last night’s meatloaf.
Then, I may find some leftover vegetables, or possibly some rice.
I might add an egg or two, if I am in an egg sort-of mood.
Frequently, I will incorporate some cheese. More than one variety, in fact, because, let’s face it, nearly everything is better with cheese.
If I am feeling sporty, I may add some peppers or spices to liven things up a bit.
The result is a simple, basic, meal, with no artificial additives, preservatives, or fuss.
It may not be the kind of meal one would serve to guests, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be delicious.
Simple meals like this are typically not repeatable, since there is no recipe and no set list of ingredients, but that is OK.
Figuring out which things go well together is part of the fun.
There is nothing wrong with recipes or fancy feasts, but, with cooking, as with so many things in life, the simplest, most basic approach is often the best.
Our lives are cluttered and complicated. Our food doesn’t have to be.
Simple food really can be the most memorable.
I have a plate in my cupboard that once belonged to my grandmother.
Every time I see it, I am reminded of the meals we had when I visited her as a child.
They were generally not fancy, but they often included vegetables we had harvested from her garden that day, and they were bursting with flavor.
Decades later, I still remember those dinners. I can’t say that about most of the meals I have had in expensive restaurants.
As far as I’m concerned, simple food and good company are all that are required for a memorable meal.