No Recipes Please, I'm a Jazz Cook
In the neo-bohemian pot luck subculture I stagger through armed only with zip-lock bags, mismatched pot holders and slightly irregular crockery, the most frequent annoyance is when someone asks: "Could I have the recipe for that?"They are well meaning folks, but how rude! When you go to a concert would ask the musician for the musical score and the lyrics so you could recreate it at home at home? Food is a live performance, if you want a quality controlled digital rendition, go to local strip mall.I am a "jazz cook." I have no recipes.Those tied to recipe cards and Martha Stewart video apron strings are obsessed with food as a destination and forget to enjoy cooking as a process. My kitchen is a buoy in the churning sea of emotionless frozen entrees whose packaging photography is National Geographics, but whose inside reality more closely resembles tabloid newsprint.I realize it sounds like bad Hemingway, but food is performance art. It is not about symmetry, and cookie cutter precision even for cookies. I have jammed with some of the masters in the grease smoke filled seedy haunts of the Midwest. I toiled at the heels of some of the finest jazz cooks of the Midwest. I perfected my style at noted eateries such as a pre-golden arches dive called "Chuck-a-Burger", an open-24-hours-a-day pancake house, a more-than-you-could-eat buffet chow house and some the finest Italian restaurants staffed by the finest Mexican chefs and ex-Marine cooks. I learned that recipes are for the feeble minded, few chefs still have all 10 fingers and dishwashers and busboys generally last about six weeks.It's not easy being a jazz cook, you have to taste as you go along. You have to rely on texture color and thickness rather than the digital readout of a microwave oven. You have to endure years of obscurity weathering the wincing glaces of friends, lovers and relatives for who patiently endured your early "performances.""Oh that was chicken? Well, the reason I asked is that I've never really seen it that color before."But nobody cooks anymore. Even most of what passes for a recipe these days entails opening two cans of something and pouring in dried soup mix. Defrosting is not cooking, "nuking" is not baking. And, since the franchising of America, I'm not sure if people who have the minimum wage job description of "cook" really cook anything. The other day I saw a truck with the logos for Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut painted on the side. This tells me that all the food is come from the same place; which would explain the same taste and same perky advertisements.Yet I know not everyone has the jazz inclination or improvisational skills with food. For you unhip who must attend pot luck parties, here's a tip. A really cool hand thrown pottery bowl and some wooden spoons will make anything you throw in it more closely resemble homemade...but be sure to take the McDonald's fries out of their bags before you put them in the bowl.