There's Always Ketchup
You’re wrists-deep stuffing a turkey on Thanksgiving day. Through olive oil-smudged eyeglasses, you glance down at your recipe, reading the next step in the directions. With hands still coated in raw poultry and bits of herb, you ask a nearby family member for two teaspoons of salt. To your disbelief, instead of responsibly finding the nearest measuring utensil, they casually sprinkle some pink himalayan into the palm of their hand and say, “here you go.”
While cooking is a universal necessity, somewhere along the complex path of our human existence, two distinct types of people were born: those who believe recipes are meant to be followed and those who believe recipes are merely a suggestion.
Some of us have discovered this key difference the hard way, bickering with our parents or friends, spoiling what should’ve been a relaxing afternoon because someone just didn’t think that the amount of garlic dictated by the recipe was sufficient, secretly adding more when the group wasn’t paying attention.
Team Measure believes wholeheartedly in the sanctity of the measuring cups. Recipes are to a cook what blueprints are to a builder. You can’t build a skyscraper without first having a foolproof plan. Recipes are sacred scribes, handed down through generations, enabling those lucky enough to attain a hardcopy the ability to create precisely the same flavors as the recipe originator, time after time. With a trusted recipe in hand, you’re holding a magic key to consistent success, so why mess with it? Team Measure appreciates the distinct smell of grandma’s spiced cookies, baking up a dependable and nostalgic childhood memory that shouldn’t be tampered with.
On the other end of the kitchen, standing an arm’s length away from all measuring lines and scales, is Team Experience. These holistic edible artists believe cooking should be an adventure. Sometimes the dish ends up being larger than originally anticipated, because after several rounds of taste tests, a few more ingredients were needed to round out the flavor. But ending up with extra food certainly isn’t a bad thing, especially when it’s a non-replicable masterpiece. Team Experience thinks cooking is just that - an experience. Becoming truly familiar with herbs and spices and food chemistry requires experimentation, and there’s still journey and learning to be had in the troubleshooting process.
When you’re hosting brunch and realize you’re out of fresh orange juice, Team Experience thrives on the concept of learning to adjust with what you have when life gives you lemons. To which Team Measure would respond, you should’ve just gone to the store and bought the right citrus fruit to begin with! Stop trying to substitute lemonade for orange juice at brunch.
Growing up, my dad (a founding member of Team Experience) attempted to make us stew while simultaneously clearing out the back of refrigerator. The primary source of meat in our refrigerator at that time? A log of salami. Try as he might, after adding more and more strange ingredients in a scrappy attempt to make a palatable meal for his children, he created a dinner only he could stomach. As cruel little kids, we told him it looked like “cat barf”.
Even though my dad was the father of the infamous cat barf stew (which we still tease him about, 20 years later), he knows how to grill the most incredible fall-off-the-bone ribs I’ve ever had. When my dad first tried cooking ribs, they turned out dry. As dictated by the principles of Team Experience, when something doesn’t turn out, you troubleshoot. He started experimenting with grill settings, cook length, seasonings and how to add moisture into the cooking process. Before long, my dad was a self-made grill master. Without using a timer, he can just look at the meat and can tell you how much longer it needs to cook. And even though dad’s ribs turn out slightly different each time, they’re something to aspire to. Cooking for him isn’t a recipe. It’s a feeling… it’s instinctual, for better or for worse. I admire him and his sense of kitchen bravery.
As holidays approach, remember that kitchens and dinner tables are meant to bring us together to enjoy and appreciate each other, not divide us. Regardless of what “team” you’re on, remember that it’s easy to point out our differences, but it takes true talent to celebrate them.
Food that we cook together is always an experience and we’re lucky to break bread with people we love, regardless of whether or not the pot roast was properly seasoned per the recipe. Because hey - there’s always ketchup.