With apologies to Shakespeare, That is the question…

In my years (and in my job) I’ve met many people of both categories. Some folks can’t wait to get into the kitchen and start creating! They take great delight at new foods, new recipes, or in ways to make old recipes new again. And then there are those who won’t go near a kitchen to make a cup of coffee, and if they can’t microwave it, don’t want to know about it.

Being of the first persuasion, I must admit I don’t quite understand the latter. But in my job, I have to figure out ways to bridge the gap. And that means coming up with recipes that are easy enough for the most culinarily-challenged amongst us, but also exciting enough for those who actually know their way around the kitchen. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes not so…

Working with my partner-in-culinary-crime, Ruth, is the best! Ruth has the common-sense approach to food that I sometimes lack. I can spend half the day creating something. Ruth has two growing boys who want to eat dinner before the 11 o’clock news comes on. I’ve learned a lot about how to cut steps and simplify things from her. There was a time in my life where, if I was making a tuna sandwich, I’d have to start off by baking the bread and making the mayonnaise! I’ve gotten better over the years, but I still want to eat as fresh and unprocessed as possible.

If you pick up a copy of Gourmet magazine, you will generally see things like “1/4 cup (1 oz) bittersweet (agridulce) pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika; available at La Tienda; tienda.com)” Right off the bat it sounds intimidating. Now, a true food-o-phile might make that trek to find that one special paprika, because, well, it is unique and tasty. But gosh and by golly, you can make the dish with the paprika in your cupboard! No, it’s not going to be exactly the same, but I can pretty much guarantee it will be pretty darn good! It’s a matter of using what you have and not being afraid to to substitute one thing for another. It’s also not being afraid to make a mistake! The absolute worse thing that can happen is you throw it out and call for pizza.

Which leads me back to the recipes we create for work. If you browse through the recipe lists, you’ll find a lot of reasonably simple-to-produce items. Many of them started out much more complicated, and any of them can be enhanced to fit your mood, budget, or cupboard offerings. Ingredients can be upgraded, and even the simple act of using a special plate or bowl for serving – people do eat with their eyes, after all – can have a great impact on how something is received.

Many (okay, most!) of us do not have the luxury of being able to spend hours in the kitchen every day, but that doesn’t mean our meals have to come out of an overly-processed box. A little bit of imagination can turn anyone into a competent cook. A lot of imagination can turn you into a great one!

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