Boundless Culinary Variety and the Plight of the Modern Cook

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Boundless Culinary Variety and the Plight of the Modern Cook

If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you may be befuddled by some of the new ingredients and techniques popping up in recipes nowadays (like the popularity of the best sous vide machines). Someone who rarely cooks may have difficulty familiarizing themselves with the various, colorful cooking terms that show up in cookbooks, but it seems that even a fairly experienced cook can get lost with the variety of terminology floating around in cookbooks and recipe magazines recently.

Sugar, for instance, may seem like one of the most ordinary items in your pantry. But if you decide to prepare some new recipe and, upon reading it through, realize that it calls for superfine, raw, or maple sugar, will you be prepared? Even the simplest of ingredients have been so specialized in today’s culinary market that keeping them all straight can give a person a headache!

Varieties of pepper, too, have become so diverse that keeping them straight is a task in itself. I have in my pantry right now white pepper, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, but the pepper I use on my table is ground fresh from multicolored peppercorns!

Even shopping for ordinary ingredients has become more challenging. I feel that all of the new organic, enriched, reduced calorie, and diet-specific food items are crowding ordinary items off of grocery store shelves, and complicating the once very simple task of buying food.

Milk, for instance, has gotten very specialized. Some milk is organic, some is flavored, and on top of all of that, you have the fat content to contend with.

Additionally, you have a whole half of the dairy section that isn’t even dairy! They’re an odd collection of lactose-free alternatives in so many flavors and varieties that it boggles the mind! That’s why we started using a yogurt maker at home – makes life easy!

The tragic part of it all is that even if I spend the time and energy running around town to gather this special type of pepper, that special variety of sugar, or an unusual kind of herb, I am no food expert, and can rarely taste the difference anyway!

My point in all this is to express my exasperation with gourmet recipes and the wide new variety of gourmet foods. Of course, when cooking a fancy meal for my friends and family I want to follow a recipe exactly, to insure that I won’t mess up the final product and make a fool of myself.

But how many people keep white pepper in their house? Would it absolutely kill the gourmet food market for them to mention in a recipe that black pepper tastes just the same?

Would it kill the foodies to design a recipe around ingredients that an average person is likely to actually have in their home?

I don’t mean to knock gourmet food. It’s a wonderful indulgence and learning to cook well with these high class ingredients is fun and challenging. All the same, sometimes a person just wants an apple or a glass of milk, and doesn’t want the bother of choosing from twenty varieties before enjoying a fundamentally simple and hassle-free food.

While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!

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