Posted On Baetrice.org
Salads are bounteous, fresh, colourful, crisp veggies and fruits blended together that are refreshing and unpretentious. You cannot ignore the fact that salads increase the consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits as well. Here are some amazing benefits of eating salads:
Boosts and sharpens your eyesight: Unbelievable but true – certain salads rich in carrots, peppers, or any leafy produce that is intensely green can actually help sharpen your eyesight. This is because they contain large amounts vitamin A, carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These are nutrients and phyto-chemicals that help both in light and dark eye adaptation and damage from high-energy light. All those engaged at staring at their computer monitors, all virtual gamers and Avid TV viewers will benefit if they increase the intake of Vit A rich veggies & fruits and protect their eyes.
Insoluble fiber: Fiber from the skin and seeds of vegetables that cannot be digested by us provides bulk during the digestive process and prevents digestive problems such as constipation, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis etc.
Increased Immune system: Increased intake of colourful vegetables rich in anti-oxidants helps build and boot the immune system regularly.
Protects you from diseases: High fiber not only reduces cardiac problems, Diabetes Mellitus, it also is protective against cancer, helps in reflux, ulcer etc.]
Lower your food cravings: Eating a salad regularly slowly helps reduce cravings for many other fatty foods. Additionally eating a small salad before a meal will help prevent over-eating and promote weight loss .This is especially true when you add proteins like chicken , eggs nuts etc as they take a longer time for digestion.
It strengthens your muscles: Most salad vegetables especially spinach and other salad greens (lettuce, arugula, bok choy etc) have a compound called `nitrates’. This helps in production of proteins especially in the muscles making them stronger and more efficient. Looks like our age old classic Popeye had it right all along. Most vegetables also provide potassium which is required for better muscle health.
Jiffy and easy meals: Salads need no major culinary expertise. Instead, it is easy and quick to prepare especially when you have no time but want to eat healthy. Just assemble whatever you can lay your hands on add some flavorful herbs and seasoning and Viola your meal is ready.
Soluble fiber slows the rate of absorption of sugar into the blood-stream & reduces the collection of bad cholesterol in the blood, the 2 main maladies of DIABETES and CARDIAC PROBLEM in today’s world.
Aids good sleep: Lack of sleep due to stress is yet another major challenge today in this hard paced life. Greens especially Lettuce contains a sleep inducing substance called ‘lectucarium’ a compound which has been used to treat cases of insomnia.
Helps in weight management: Salads help in initializing weight loss and enable better weight management. It makes a person slimmer but toned as it gives all the nutrients required for you minus the extra calories.
This shower was planned by the bride-to-be's aunt who lives in Upstate New York, so we were thrilled to take care of everything from the food, to the rentals, as well as the decor from afar. We were able to achieve the bride-to-be's vision along with the flavors that her aunt had in mind. We kept the menu light and pretty with proteins such as ahi tuna, and local goat cheese from Goat Rodeo Farms. We finished the occasion with assorted macarons in colors which complimented the decor.
WELCOME COCKTAIL: “LADY’S SLIPPER”
Rose Syrup, Prosecco
BUTTERNUT SQUASH TART
Roasted Butternut Squash with Herb Chèvre Cheese in Savory Herb Tart
Fresh Tuna in Sesame and Yuzu Aioli in Baked Wanton
SMOKED TROUT WITH AVOCADO
Topped with Crème Fraîche, and Tomato on English Cucumber
FRESH MUSHROOM RAVIOLI
With light Cream Sauce topped with micro greens served on a small plate
With Tamarind and Almond Dukka on Couscous served on a small plate
SAGE CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN
With Fennel Parsnip Puree and a Blackberry-Pinot Reduction served on a
CITRUS MARINADED CHARRED FLANK STEAK
With Arugula, Roasted Golden and Purple Beets and choice of
Chimichurri Ranch Dressing or Blood Orange Vinaigrette
HAND-MADE ASSORTED MACARONS
Lemon, Pistachio, Rose, Vanilla Basil
DARK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CUPS
With Hand-Whipped Cream
Our client wanted something special for her husband's big 4-0. As a couple who appreciates food and wine our client came to us with her vision, "He likes meat. And pasta. We want to be a little bold but still be approachable to our friends." So, we came up with a tapas (small plates) and a wine paired party for their friends to keep things social.
Locally Smoked and Cured Beef and Pork, House Pickled
Vegetables, House Made Olive Tapenade, Selection of Two Cheeses from Emerald Valley Artisans
Mixed Greens, Quinoa, Arugula Beet Salad
With Pickled Onions and House Made Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Fresh Linguine Pasta
With Spring Vegetables in Light Cream Sauce
Grilled Shrimp with Garlic, Fresh Herbs, and Bell Peppers on French Bread
Beef Carpaccio Chimichurri
With Shaved Manchego, Lemon, and Olive Oil
With Almond Dukka and Tamarind Glaze
Originally posted on npr
The Agriculture Department established research centers in 2014 to translate climate science into real-world ideas to help farmers and ranchers adapt to a hotter climate. But a tone of skepticism about climate change from the Trump administration has some farmers worried that this research they rely on may now be in jeopardy.
The livelihoods of farmers and ranchers are intimately tied to weather and the environment. But they may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.
Farmers stand to lose a lot if worst-case climate projections come to pass. They are likely to face extreme swings in temperature and precipitation. Pests and crop diseases will show up more frequently. Heat stress could stunt meat and dairy production by the nation's cattle herds, costing farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue and forcing food prices to rise.
Given the scope of the problem, the search for novel ways to adapt to a changing climate is driving agricultural research. The new administration in Washington, D.C., however, is attempting to change not just the direction of climate research, but also the tone and rhetoric around the issue.
For more than a decade, the federal government has taken on a large role in directing and funding climate change research, spending more than $11.6 billion on climate research in 2014 — an increase from just $2.4 billion in spending in 1993, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Former President Barack Obama made climate change adaptation and preparation a signature issue, rolling climate goals into policies across the government.
A high-profile Obama-era initiative specifically focused on the food system came in the form of U.S. Department of Agriculture research centers known as "climate hubs." The hubs are meant to better coordinate USDA research and outreach. After their creation in 2014, researchers set about translating scientific jargon into real-world advice for farmers, ranchers and foresters on how best to survive more erratic weather and a hotter climate.
The Agriculture Department established nine hubs across the U.S., and put one devoted to Caribbean adaptation in Puerto Rico.
In Fort Collins, Colo., the Northern Plains Climate Hub operates out of a squat, beige building, hidden behind a row of greenhouses. The center's director, agricultural economist Dannele Peck, says her team is doing the work necessary to keep America's farmers and ranchers productive as climate change upends their operations. And unlike other industries that could suffer losses in a hotter climate, Peck says farmers are already primed to start having conversations and changing certain practices now.
Originally posted on Food Newsfeed
Think the Super Bowl is big? Imagine catering the parties that precede and follow the largest sporting event in America. That’s the task handed to Celeste Fierro, the senior vice president and co-founder of The ONE Group, parent company to STK, a growing, global chain of 11 steakhouses.
In the four days STK’s catering arm will be out in force in Houston, they expect to serve over 50,000 people, plate over 1,100 pounds of ribeye, 720 pounds of potatoes, and 900 pounds of pork—to start.
This is the fourth year STK, which has a reputation for being a comfortable haven for athletes and celebrities (they once catered a dinner party for Mariah Carey), has been called on to feed stadiums full of people during the nation’s premier sporting event.
“Listen, as soon it’s over you start planning for the next one,” Fierro says. “What city is it in? Where are we going and what are we going to do? Even before we know what we’re getting involved in, we will have already done the research of what city it’s in, what we need to do, what staffing companies we’re going to need to be using, and other behind-the-scenes work.”
STK’s off-site catering division, STK OUT, became a full-time operation in 2013. Since then, the company has developed a strategy that makes the improbable task of delivering a restaurant-quality experience off-site a reality.
How? Fierro and STK treat each catering event like the entire world is watching. In this example that just happens to be the case.
STK is feeding VIPs at On Location Experiences’ Super Bowl party on game day, and serving as the official food purveyor for VIP attendees of the DirecTV and Pepsi three-day concert series leading up to the contest between New England and Atlanta.
And with just 11 restaurants, it’s not as though STK can dip into a particularly deep well for support. Instead, it’s all about planning, preparation, and effort, Fierro says.
“Typically, I think a lot of people come, they do their job, and they leave,” Fierro says. “ But we’re here building relationships. Half of the clients who eat at our restaurants are at these events. We have to deliver that quality and consistent experience. It’s extremely important to us.”
It all starts with staffing. STK hired more than 800 local Houston employees to cover the event. They work exclusively with STK and don’t service other vendors. The group also flew in more than 40 STK staffers from across the U.S. That includes 10 executive chefs, servers, and marketing personnel, among other positions.
Fierro says the key isn’t to focus on sheer numbers. Yes, STK needs a small army to get this done, but they need to be well equipped if they’re going to pass as anything other than rent-for-hire employees.
Fierro has been in touch with the local staffing agency for seven months, vetting and making sure they were the right fit. Then, she divided the massive group into sections. For every 25 people or so, there’s a manager and perhaps two STK employees, whether that’s a server or a chef. Weeks ahead of the event, STK also heads down and trains the temporary hires.
“It’s contagious when they see my staff delivering that quality,” Fierro says. “Then they want to deliver that. People take pride in their work. Any city, this is their job and they want to do a good job. You just have to prep them. You have to communicate well. You have to prepare them well. And you have to have people there to show them how we do it.”
It’s the reason STK is able to deliver nearly 900 pounds of risotto, something you normally don’t see at an off-premise event. “Prepping is all about consistency,” Fierro adds.
There’s no question the stakes are high as well. Obviously, from a revenue standpoint, STK wants to be invited back for future Super Bowls and leave an impression on enough guests to garner additional high-profile business. Performing well on this stage also directs attention to the brand’s brick-and-mortar units.
“It’s great for us because it’s not only brand awareness but a lot of our customers come from all over the world come here to see the Super Bowl,” Fierro says. “And we’re all over the world, too.”
For people who are familiar with STK, to see the company shine under the spotlight is no surprise. The steakhouse pays as much attention to the experience as it does the menu.
“It’s not just about a great steak. It’s about the ambiance,” Fierro says. “The music in the background. Comfortable seating. We’re busy. You can meet people. There’s a lot that goes into that. I think that same vibe and that same experience that we’re delivering in our restaurant we’re delivering in our catering.”
“I think a big part of the reason we’re being hired for these events now is because we are bringing an elevated experience,” she continues. “We’re bringing a high-end restaurant that already has branding and already has value in to cater your event. It’s so important for us to deliver that. I think that’s why we’re doing well and why we’re in such a high demand.”
Originally posted on Food & Wine
Inventors are getting extra creative in their efforts to fight food waste. At the recent Seeds and Chips Global Food Innovation Summit, where Barack Obama gave a speech on the future of sustainable food, innovators came with their best ideas on how to reduce waste and to give the massive amount of food that does end up in the garbage a second life.
Italian biotechnology start-up Green Code dreamed up the Demetra tool, which extends the shelf life of produce. Demetra uses a mixture of plant extracts to delaying the ripening process, which means we could soon see bananas that don't brown on our supermarket shelves.
Meanwhile, New York-based food tech startup RISE repurposes barley, a by-product of beer production, to make flour for pizza, cookies, and bread.
There’s also a tool for chefs, called Winnow: It’s a “smart scale” that calculates just how much food restaurants are wasting, and it should be able to save chefs as much as eight percent on food costs by helping them better understand how much to buy in the first place.
Earlier this year, researchers reported that the UK wastes £13 billion of food per year. In the U.S. we waste about $165 million worth of food annually, even though 1 in 7 American use food banks.
On top of that, a third of produce is never even eaten because it spoils en route to the grocery store, or it’s simply thrown out by picky consumers. All that food ends up in landfills, where it rots, releasing greenhouse gases that speed up the already dangerous pace of climate change.
Clearly, more people and companies are catching on to what is becoming a big problem for our planet and our wallets. Indeed, we probably have a future to look forward to in which the food we eat everyday might will be made from the food we once wasted.
More than half of Americans are invested in the stock market. About 62 percdent of Americans buy wine. About 24.6 percent of households with an income of $ 100,000+ have a wine refrigerator or cellar.
Are you included? Then you likely understand investing and have a wine storage unit in your kitchen with a capacity of 24 to 36 bottles. Suppose you applied those investing smarts to having the right wines on hand at the right time?
Originally posted on Bizjournals
We are talking wine enjoyment, not wine investing. From your point of view, wine should be a beverage to be enjoyed.
Portfolio theory applied to wineFor purposes of our wine analogy, portfolio theory simply means owning a diversified portfolio of non-correlated assets. Assume the asset classes of investment portfolios are stocks, bonds, cash and alternative investments. The similar categories in the wine drinker’s portfolio will be reds, whites, rose wines and everything else.
Here’s how the analogy works:
1. The markets are cyclical. Stocks rise in bull markets and decline in bear markets. Interest rates rise and fall. Growth and value investing take turns being in favor.
Wine: Weather is cyclical too. Winter, spring, summer and fall are the four seasons.
2. Buy American -- Most U.S. investors prefer to own American stocks. According to Investment Company Institute, in June 2016, there was $6.1 trillion invested in U.S. stock mutual funds vs. $2.1 trillion in global stock funds.
Wine: Most Americans are more comfortable buying domestic wines. One glance at a steakhouse wine list is all the proof you need.
3. International makes sense -- The stock market capitalization of the entire world is $65.6 trillion. The U.S. accounts for $23.8 trillion or 36 percent. Investors who don’t look beyond our shores are similar to golfers who play an 18-hole course but stop after the 6 th hole. (That isn’t mine, I heard it in the 1980s)
Wine: Several really great styles are attributed to other countries. Think Bordeaux, Burgundy and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Drinking with the seasonsNow let’s consider matching wines with different times of the year:
Summer -- Summertime, and the living is easy. This is similar to a bull market in investing terms. The weather is warm. You are grilling chicken and eating salads on your deck.
Your wine portfolio -- 20 percent red wines, 60 percent white wines, 20 percent rose wines.
Whites: American: Chardonnay. Overseas: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, German Riesling, French Chablis, Portuguese Vinho Verde, Italian Pinot Grigio.
Reds: American: Pinot Noir. Overseas: French Beaujolais.
Rose: Overseas: French Rose from Cotes du Provence
Rationale: It’s hot. The subtle complexities of many full-bodied wines will be lost in casual outdoor entertaining. People tend to drink more in the summer. German Riesling and Portuguese Vinho Verde often register 7 to 9 percent alcohol content vs. 12 to 14 percent on conventional wines. Rose wines have been growing in popularity. In 2012, America drank 13 percent of the world’s rose wine. Twenty percent of U.S. consumption was in NYC and 15 percent in Miami. It’s on a roll.
Fall— The leaves are turning, but the weather is still comfortable. The days are getting shorter. You are still entertaining outside, but parties move inside as the days get shorter. Salads have given way to steaks and lobster.
Your Wine Portfolio: 50 percent red wine, 50 percent white wine, 0 percent rose wine.
Whites: American: Chardonnay. Overseas: French white Burgundy, Chablis. Australian Chardonnay.
Reds: American: Cabernet, Merlot and Meritage. Overseas: French red Bordeaux, red Burgundy, Italian Chianti.
Rationale: As the weather gets colder, your wines are becoming fuller bodied. You are indoors now, where enjoying complex flavors is easier. Your summer Chardonnay supply carries you into the fall. Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in America. You are probably moving from lighter fish and salad dishes to heavier beef, lamb and chicken dishes. Fuller-bodied reds are a good match. Who doesn’t love a good cabernet with a steak?
Winter— The holidays are the positive. The colder weather is the negative. It’s the bear market of weather. No outdoor dining. Plenty of holiday entertaining. Think Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Stews and roasts are more popular.
Your wine portfolio: 80 percent red wine, 20 percent white wine, 0 percent rose.
Whites: American: Chardonnay
Reds: American: Cabernet, Zinfandel. Overseas: Spanish Rioja, Australian Shiraz, French red Bordeaux and Red Burgundy. Beaujolais too.
Rationale: You are getting into the holidays. Turkey, Thanksgiving and Zinfandel go together. Beaujolais goes well too. A traditional Christmas dinner often involves roast beef, a natural match for fuller bodied reds. You are entertaining more and want less expensive, uncomplicated wines for parties.
Spring— It’s the season of rebirth. Leaves start to appear on trees. Daffodils are followed by tulips. The weather gets warmer. You venture outside again.
Your Wine Portfolio: 45 percent red wines, 45 percent white wines, 10 percent rose wines
Whites: American Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc.
Reds: American: Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir. Overseas: French red Bordeaux, Spanish Rioja, New Zealand Pinot Noir
Rose: Overseas: French Rose from Cotes du Provence
Rationale: The weather is getting warmer, but Mother Nature still has surprises. Easter celebrations often involve lamb or ham, matched with red Bordeaux or NZ Pinot Noir respectively. Your red wines shift to the lighter side. Rose has been making inroads beyond summertime. Memorial Day is getting close.
Alternative investments — what about champagne?Your everyday wine selection doesn’t include everything you own. There’s probably some champagne tucked away for New Years, Valentine’s Day along with June weddings and graduations. You might have a bottle of port for those long winter nights in front of the fire. These are wines that don’t fit neatly into a category. Your wine refrigeration unit holds high-turnover wines that get opened and replaced very frequently.
Fruit is everyone’s favorite healthy sweet. Vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber and water, all add to it being the bomb. Though fruit sometimes gets a bad rap for being high in sugar, we all know by now that this sweet stuff is not the same as downing that bag of gummy bears. Even so, fruit comes in many shapes and sizes… And nutritional benefits!
Here are seven of my favorite fruits for maximum health:
1. AcaiThis berry is famous for its antioxidant power, which helps reduce inflammation. It has a high polyphenol content, which has been found to improve your cholesterol and contribute to overall good heart health.
If your muscles are sore from that boxing class, this tart fruit may even moderately reduce exercise-induced muscle damage. The easiest way to get this super fruit into your diet is to buy it frozen and add to a smoothie. Or, blend it try this delish, creamy quinoa parfait.
2. BlueberriesThese dark berries have been shown to have the highest cellular antioxidant activity compared to any other fruit tested. Snacking on blueberries can help to reduce oxidative stress, promote good heart health, provide protection against stroke, support healthy vision and also aid in cancer prevention. Pop them into your jar of overnight oats and have an antioxidant superfood breakfast ready to grab and go in the morning.
3. CoconutYep, this superstar healthy fat is a fruit! The white part (meat) of the coconut is packed with fiber, protein, vitamin B and E, and the minerals calcium and iron. Coconut oil, which comes from the meat, is high in saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s). These fats are special in that they are more readily used for energy and less likely to be stored as fat than other saturated fats. Also, the fat in coconuts is linked to improving your cholesterol profile. Don’t forget it tastes like a Caribbean vacation — and all that fat keeps you super satisfied.
4. GrapefruitBesides being packed with vitamin C, this citrus fruit is packed with fiber and may speed up weight loss. It holds on to less water than other more sugary fruits and one study showed that people on diets who supplemented with grapefruit before meals lost significantly more weight than those who didn't. They also found that eating this fruit also contributed to healthy insulin levels following meals.
Skip the extra spoons of sugar, though, and opt for a broiled grapefruit with a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon next time that sweet tooth hits.
5. PineappleThis tropical favorite contains the compound called bromelain, which may aid in digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties. This compound may be an effective health supplement in preventing cancer, diabetes and various cardiovascular diseases. The highest amount of bromelain though, is contained in the core of the pineapple, so instead of discarding it when you slice up your perfectly ripe pineapple, save it in the freezer and add it to smoothies for a tropical (and healthy!) punch.
6. PomegranateEach of these pretty little seeds (don’t they look like jewels?) contain polyphenols which have been shown to lower blood pressure and even fight cancer. Pomegranate seeds are also a great source of potassium and fiber, and packed with vitamin C. One study found that one glass of pomegranate juice contained three times more antioxidants than a glass of red wine or a cup of green tea.
7. RaspberriesOne cup of raspberries is not only d-e-l-i-s-h but will also give you a whopping 8 grams of fiber. The fiber will help keep sugars from being absorbed into your bloodstream too fast, meaning that you won’t experience a big spike in blood sugar that may leave you hungry for candy an hour after eating a bowl. These pretty red berries are also loaded with vitamin C for immune support and manganese for bone and skin health. Snack on them straight from picking or use them in a glaze for salmon.
I love going to the grocery store: I could spend hours walking the aisles, taking in the sights and smells, and checking out new products.
I’ve noticed, however, that my happy trips can take an awkward turn when I run into a fellow mom or one of my patients. They’ll often point to their cart, and silently nod for approval for all the healthy items they are bringing home. In too many carts, I see “good for you assurances” on foods that aren’t, well, good for you.
Here are top five offenders lurking in your grocery store:
1. The 'made from' or 'made with' labelAll too often, the “made with” label is there to distract you so you fail to see what else is in the product.
Start with “whole grains," for example. While it’s great that a product is made with whole grains, technically, you could be eating stripped grains with a little whole grain thrown in. Look for a “100 percent” label on your grain products.
2. The 'only this many calories per serving' labelWhen we start worrying about the quantity of calories, we stop caring about the quality. Although eating more calories than you need may contribute to weight gain, calorie amounts are not a testament to nutrient density.
Nuts have a lot of calories, yet they are one of the healthiest foods on earth.
Resist the urge to purchase a processed, artificial food for the lure of how many calories it contains. You’ll most likely be paying for it in the end by overindulging.
3. The 'all natural' assuranceNatural has not yet been defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In fact, the FDA has only accepted the use of the term to mean “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.”
The problem with this limited definition is that it does not contain information related to food processing or use of pesticides. Plus, there are plenty of natural products, like sugar, that don’t contribute to good health.
Until more detailed criteria are developed, don’t expect the “natural” claim to mean your food was just pulled from the ground or a tree.
4. OrganicA 2011 study from Cornell University compared two identical chocolate chip cookies. One was labeled as regular and the other as organic. Study participants showed a preference for the organic option based on taste and nutrient density — they thought the cookie must be lower in fat and calories. They were also willing to pay more for the organic option. Again, the two cookies were 100 percent identical.
This is attributing healthiness to a product, simply based on a label.
Going organic is often a great idea, but if you see the claim used to sell cookies, crackers and candy, don’t assume it’s a better version of its non-organic counterpart.
5. No high fructose corn syrup. A lack of high fructose corn syrup does not give a product a free pass. Bragging about a lack of high fructose corn syrup is a case of a manufacturer trying to persuade you that all the other sugars in the product shouldn’t be looked at with as much disdain. The item could still have an excess amount of other sugars, making you less satisfied, and more willing to eat and buy more.
We eat too much sugar to begin with, from all sources — about 130 pounds of it per year. That's almost 60,000 grams of the sweet stuff.
Bottom line: Focus on eating less sugar overall, not on eliminating just one type.
Here’s the secret to eating healthy:Eat real food. Don’t rely on the front of the package. Instead, focus on the ingredient list to assess the quality of the product. The healthiest foods on the planet need no marketing at all.
Growing up, I was always striving to be the best, to accomplish things — good grades, varsity tennis player, newspaper editor. When I was in high school I was thought of as "perfect" by my peers. I didn't like answering questions in class unless I was sure that I knew the answer, I worked hard, and I held myself to extremely high standards. After college, I got a job as an editorial assistant at Condé Nast, a major publishing company in New York, and began climbing up the career ladder. Failure was never an option.
I had dabbled with cooking in college but it wasn't until I graduated and started living on my own in New York City, and working for a then-unknown website called Epicurious, that I really started experimenting with food. In college I cooked very basic things, maybe pasta with store-bought sauce or a very simple beef stew. But as a budding foodie in the city, playing around with ingredients like artichokes and lemongrass and salmon was pretty exciting. I printed out all kinds of recipes and tested out new cookbooks, trying to hone my skills.
In my opinion, there are two kinds of cooks — those who follow recipes to the letter and those who are naturals in the kitchen, comfortable tossing together a few ingredients and somehow coming up with something delicious. I always fell firmly in the former category. I worked my way though recipes, measuring precise amounts of salt, running to the grocery store if I didn't have the necessary fresh lemon juice or dried oregano or capers. My skills improved, but I was always married to a recipe, anxious to follow the directions exactly so that my dish would come out "right."
After a few years in the workforce as a food editor and writer, I decided to go to culinary school, taking classes part-time at New York's Institute of Culinary Education while I continued to work full-time. When I entered culinary school, it was a whole different world from my fancy-pants college. Sure, we had a few on-paper assignments and exams, but the majority of what we were doing was, obviously, hands-on cooking. And hands-on cooking is a very different skill than acing standardized tests or writing persuasive essays. It takes experience, and instinct, and plain common sense.
At first, it was hard to let go. I would get stressed out if my mayonnaise didn't emulsify properly on the first try, or if my medium dice potato came out slightly crooked. My worst day in class was during the baking module, when we were making laminated dough for croissants. Laminated dough involves rolling out dough, folding it over a layer of butter, rolling it out again, folding it over butter, and so on and so on, creating many layers of pastry and butter that then puff up and turn flaky and airy when baked. I couldn't keep my folds even, and my pastry kept skewing out of shape. It was a frustrating experience, one that could only be improved — not by studying or trying harder or paying more attention — but with time and lots of practice.
I may have learned how to chop an onion and make macarons in culinary school, but the biggest thing I learned? Sometimes, you're going to fail. No amount of memorization or studying is going to ensure that your lamb chops cook to a perfect medium-rare every time. Sometimes you'll burn those cookies, or overcook the steak, or try to invent a dish with capers, scallops and grapefruit, only to have it fail miserably. And that's OK. Food is all about trial and error, experimenting with flavors and techniques, and having fun while doing it. It's the only way to learn how to be a better cook. And those croissants I made from my raggedy laminated dough? They may not have been perfect, but they still tasted pretty darn good.
After going to culinary school, I became more confident with cooking. I learned to relax; to try throwing in a little of this, to sub in another ingredient, to use the kitchen timer as an estimate, not an absolute. I now use recipes as a guide, but won't necessarily follow them to the letter. I often don't measure. (I never measure spices, especially never, ever salt; I've found that nearly every recipe underestimates the amount of salt you'll need.)
But it was one class I took, after graduating from culinary school, that really cemented things for me. It was a recipe developing class that lasted just a few hours one evening. The class had a very simple premise — we started with a basic, classic chocolate chip cookie recipe. And then each of us had to change one thing in the recipe. (The exercise was meant to show us how changing one ingredient in a recipe can make such a huge difference.) One person had to swap out the butter with avocados. Someone else had to use honey instead of sugar. I was instructed to use half butter, half almond butter. We all measured, mixed, and baked up our cookies, then tasted each variation. Some turned out fantastic; others were decent, but not great. A couple were total flops. Mine, rather luckily, turned out pretty delicious. But that class taught me a lot. It's OK to mess up. It's OK to try something new and then fail. You can't do everything right on the first try. You make your mistakes, learn from them, and then move on. That's the only way to stretch yourself, make new discoveries, find exciting things.
It's a philosophy you're often told and that you "know" in theory — but it's hard to put into action. So now, in cooking — and in life — I try not to be too hard on myself. Getting it right on the first try, or being perfect, isn't the answer. I've had dinner parties where the fish came out overcooked or the apple crisp got too mushy, and I've learned to just keep pouring the wine, and everyone will have a good time. I've spent endless hours taking Spanish classes, and I still can't conjugate verbs or use the past tense. I ran a 15-kilometer race last year, and I didn't care about my time, or how I measured up to my friends — all that mattered was that I (a novice runner) crossed the finish line.
Failing in cooking — and in life — is inevitable. But failing, and learning from those failures, can only lead to more delicious things.