Friday, August 04, 2006

Towards Eating Better
Quality Ingredients

There are a lot of cooking shows on TV. And books, plenty of cook books. I think people think they can eat better if they learn to cook better. I am also pretty sure that cooking can be improved. Often to cook better, takes just a bit of improvement, a little knife technique, pans just a bit hotter, leaving things alone long enough for crust; seasoning... Still, the improved cooking only goes so far. Eating better means more than better cooking.

Restaurants cook well. Even at Jimmy Johns, they know how to cook. Restaurants cook in ways you cannot. They have mis en place, which is another way of saying they have a lot of time to prepare, to slice evenly, fix stocks, and make things easier to cook. Restaurants also have technology, not the least the paco jets and odd contraptions of the avante garde. I mean true convection ovens and 1800 degree broilers and big ass pots (which really aint so hi-tech but makes a difference). The home cook who reads all the books and watches all the shows can only get so far. Or ask yourself, does it really matter that the people at Cheesecake Factory know how to cook. The home cook, however, has a secret weapon, the tomato.

If you eat out today or tomorrow or any day next week, look at the tomato. Does it seem like a tomato. Like a tomato you could get. Like a tomato you would eat? Long story short, quality ingredients are available to the home cook, especially in ways not very available at restaurant eating. If you seek out and obtain quality ingredients, you will eat well. This is our weapon; our source for great eating.

Some quality ingredients are easily accessible and add little cost. Trader Joe's sells outstanding estate olive oil for no more than average EVOO costs. Or take butter, is there any product that can be so good, add so much, with so little added cost? Some times it takes a bit more money and some times it takes a lot more money to obtain quality ingredients. Farmer's market stuff, from eggs to fruits to vegetables cost more, but it's not that much more. On the other hand, prime-aged steaks cost a lot more money than Jewel Angus. Some quality ingredients are too expensive or barely available to the home cook, think caviar of foie gras. Seafood, especially here in Chicago, I would argue, it is nearly impossible to get true quality seafood at home. All this means, cater your diet, your menus towards what you can get and what you want to pay.

Quality ingredients are not difficult to find or afford. Taste the difference. Eat better by making the effort to get quality ingredients.

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