“Great chefs rarely bother to consult cookbooks”
Simic is a poet, and a good one. I like the quote, because in a certain sense, it touches on a truth about good cooks, but I’d put it differently. I’d say, ‘great cooks don’t often consult cookbooks for day to day cooking.’ In other words, great cooks have a firm grasp of basics, but certainly do go to the well for new ideas, and even great chefs do have a library they consult.
More often than not, what you’re seeking when you read cookbooks isn’t the basics of process, but new flavors. If you want to learn middle eastern cooking and know nothing about it, then you want a learn from a pro and so buy a book.
The quote above, and the following one, come from The Flavor Bible: The essential guide to culinary creativity, based on the wisdom of America’s most imaginative chefs. Therein, the authors, Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg, noted the following;
“Learning to cook like a great chef is within the realm of possibility. However, it is something that is rarely taught; it must be caught.”
And therein lies the arcane truth at the heart of cooking well. While Harold McGee teaches us the science, and Carême the art, the whole lies somewhere between. Cooking really well is much inspiration as it anything else.
What The Flavor Bible does better than anything else I’ve read is to provide a solid framework for inspiration to take flight. Inside, you’ll find incredibly useful advice on what works. I guarantee culinary inspiration with this book in hand. It has earned a place in my Go To Pile, which is not huge, so that’s saying something. Grab a copy and get creating.