I loved being a cook. I was making delicious things with my own hands and every few days learning some technique that made cooking easier. I took cello lessons and practiced in the mornings and went to work around two in the afternoon. In the years that followed I moved around, studying with different teachers and working in all manner of restaurants, from flipping eggs to making Caesar salads tableside to making wedding cakes.
When I occasionally talked to my sister (she was in graduate school living on a student's budget (though she at least had a kitchen) she would ask for recipes. I remember telling her about pesto, about how she'd love it. The next time we spoke, I asked how she liked it. She changed the subject a few times, but finally admitted that she hadn't made it because she didn't know what fresh basil looked like.
This made me feel bad. Not in a big way, but in lots of small ways. I'd promoted pasta pesto as this quick, incredibly delicious thing to make, but I'd left out a critical detail, one that had kept her from making it. The thing that got to me was that once upon a time I didn't know what fresh basil looked like either. And I hated it when magazines and books assumed that I knew things I didn't. A while later it occurred to me that I did all my cooking and most of my eating at work (at home I had milk, cereal and coffee. When I actually looked around my supermarket, I realized how my recipe for pesto was ridiculous. At the time, buying fresh basil (when it was even available) meant buying a few sorry-looking leaves in a tiny zip-lock bag. And those bags were expensive. Making my simple recipe would cost a fortune.
Since my aim was not to frustrate, I became more considerate when I shared recipes.
Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.
This page created 1996
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