Relax, this isn’t a post about cooking beets and carrots.
I am surrounded by excellent cooks. Dr. J. and Mr. Italo in particular are masters of Italian cuisine. And the Ruskie really knows how to put some meat on your bones with down-to-earth home cooking. Philip creates wonderful Chinese dishes from his native Mauritius. And our Polish friends Andre and Collette make heavenly Polish food, including my favorite bigos of all time (stewed for several days).
What all these outstanding cooks have in common is that they tend to stay close to their traditions. The big advantage of that approach is that you always have a frame of reference for comparing what you produce to a “standard” which you grew up with and know is great.
My own cooking is hit-or-miss in quality (by my standards). Sometimes it’s great and other times it’s shit. I’ve come to the realization that the difference between the really good cooks and myself is that I tend to experiment a lot and stray into traditions that I don’t know very well. One day it’s Chinese, the next Indian, the day after that Greek, then Vietnamese. For most of my dishes (with the exception of the Greek), I don’t have an entrenched reference base of excellence. Now, don’t get me wrong, my cooking is still probably in the upper 25 percentile of home cooks today, but it’s not outstanding.
I notice that the really great cooks stay very close to home in terms of their style…and I’ve decided to do the same for the next few months. I’m going back to my Greek roots and focusing all my entertaining cooking on Greek recipes. I even have my grandmother’s “Tselementes” that she brought with her from Greece in the early ’50’s (It is the 1948 edition). The term “tselementes” is the Greek generic term for “cookbook” although in fact it refers to Nicholas Tselementes, widely regarded as the father of modern Greek cuisine.
As you can see from the photos below, it’s been around the block a couple of times. And the recipes are in grams and drams (an ancient form of weights, all but extinct today). I’ve been meaning to have it re-bound and will do so now that I’ve taken it out of storage.