Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I hate writing recipes. There. Now it's out in the open.

Writing a recipe is like taking a photograph of a beautiful butterfly in flight. You end up with a snapshot of a gorgeous, ephemeral creature, but in no way can you capture the essential beauty of its flight.

And if you have ever watched a butterfly on a butterfly bush, as I do each Sunday during the summer and fall when we have scores on the bushes outside the family room, you see how the butterfly flits from one flower to the next on a whim. It is this serendipity, this impulsive behavior that is missing from both the photograph of the butterfly and the recipe.

Recipes leave no room for chance, for whim, for feeling, for emotion, and ultimately for "I don't have exactly 2 and 1/2 cups of chopped carrots in my refrigerator."

Cooking for me is what I imagine that playing the jazz saxophone was to Charlie Parker. Not that I am comparing myself in any way to the Yardbird. But to hear him play the same song on different recordings is to start to understand what I am talking about.

The recipe, like the sheet music, provides the basic framework. But after that, it's all improv: responding to mood, to the audience, to the other players around you, to the muse inside you. And there's no way that sheet music or a recipe can capture that. It's a static image, a snapshot if you will, of a process that is continual and infinitely variable.

And while I have this issue with writing recipes, they, like sheet music, are the only way that we have to share our ideas with one another, if we cannot be in the same room. And so I share my recipes with you.

Just so that you understand that I am sharing the melody and am leaving the riffs up to you.

Postscript May 31, 2008—It just struck me on re-reading this post that cooking is an excercise in passion and recipes are essentially passionless. How do I convey my passion to you in a recipe?

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