This year I broke from tradition and baked a different dessert for Thanksgiving. I usually default to my much loved Toll House Pie recipe, from a worn out cookbook that has broken in half from its use. What did I make this year?
Two flavors of cheesecake – Orange Ginger and Sweet Potato Crunch.
I decided to loose the intimidation of baking a cheesecake, but use flavors that I love, all in the first try!
We all know good cooks, but do we know those that are considered the adventurous, imaginative, creative cooks that push the envelope?
I know these days we have Food Network and shows such as Chopped, Iron Chef, to bring us the concept of thinking outside our recipe boxes. We are not limited to a set recipe cards and their instructions. Cooks have always been able to adapt and change.
In the construction field, you have the engineers that design by perfection, and you have the project managers, that make things work in the real world. A food “imaginator” or “imaginer”, in my mind this person would be one that not only envisioned the idea or recipe concoction, but also would be the designer. They possess the engineering skills to design a recipe concept, and project management capabilities, as that they tweek the new recipe ingredients used, and its process, into perfection, using what they are given.
The results can be a thing of beauty, or a hot mess.
Many times when watching those competing on Chopped, we hear the story about recipes passed down, and how creative cooks at home and in the workplace worked with what they had.
My early recollections of food creativity come from my family, are quite memorable.
My mother “invented” the koolaid flavor “Purplesaurus Rex”–I swear! Back in the 60’s mom needed koolaid for an army of kids. The only flavors she had were lemonade and purple koolaid. She mixed the two, and we all loved it. Who would have thought of this? My mom is the master of mixing things, with and end result of perfection. This has influenced me to no end!
When my grandfather was transferred Arizona, my grandmother and grandfather enjoyed southwestern cuisine. Authentic southwestern cuisine. It was odd for Midwesterners to love hot peppers and spicy food. My grandfather and grandmother made trips to Arizona and to Mexico with their pull behind trailer to bring back the most important things: rocks for the garden, and hot peppers! The grocery stores at that time did not carry food items on the shelf from out of the area, much less from other parts of the world.
When my grandfather was transferred to Japan with the Army, my grandmother learned to stir-fry things. Every thing–she was the epitome of the designer cook, and it came from simple beginnings, everyday life.
My other set of grandparents were farmers. They cooked with what they had and fed many a field hand. My grandmother could put on a spread for the masses with ease. She did not fret or pour over a recipe box, to come up with the menu. She knew what she had in her pantry, or had access to locally, via the grocery or a neighbor, and used her recipes and ingenuity as a tool. A few tried and true basic mixes were kept in the pantry, ready and available to save time.
To see the table set and the food outstretched–you felt the love.
The cheesecakes I made were quite fabulous! I used a Martha Steward recipe, with additions, and home made toppings. The cakes were not too sweet, and with the toppings, one could add the amount of flavors and sweetness to suit their taste.
During the holidays we tend to focus more on food, and what we prepare. It is not about the perfect recipe or decadent dessert, but about what you love, want to try, and wish to share.