And so it happened that one day, when I called upon my good friend’s mother, Azalia, for advice on making something or other for the 10th time in as many weeks that she said:
“El cocinar es probar”
Now, that may sound vague and uninspiring and I can honestly say it didn’t mean a whole lot to me then. But time has given the statement validity and today, it defines cooking for me.
As far as sustenance goes, we don’t need much. Technically, you could survive eating buttermilk and potatoes for the rest of your life. But who wants to live like that? Not me and probably not you either. You wanna get better at cooking? Fer reals?
Taste early and taste often.
- Taste your marinade (before you put the meat in it), if it tastes yummy-sour-salty, you are golden.
- Taste your sofrito after you add all the ingredients but before you add the protein to it… Is it tomato-sweet pepper-sherry goodness? Aces.
- Taste that water the rice is cooking in, if it’s salty like ocean water, you will be pleased with the result.
- Did you over-salt something? Try removing some of it and replacing with water or milk, cook for 5 minutes and taste again.
- Is your sauce dull and insipid? Add some salt or a pat of butter or a squeeze of lime.
Try to hit as many of the sensations you can: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, umami. If all else fails, salt is your friend.
When you taste as you go, you get a better understanding of what influence your ingredients or techniques have on what you’re preparing. Like anything, the more you do it the better you get at it. So get to it–and taste, taste, taste.
True fact: The sense of “Taste” used to be known as “Gustation”. Talk about old-skool Spanglish!