I am called Unorthodox for a reason. It pretty much sums up my whole life, one in which I preferred to stake out on the open road to learn what I wanted to learn and when I wanted to learn it instead of conforming to school schedules and prescribed text books. Because of this, I was not great in class and preferred ditching for the library filled with a Dewey Decimal system starting out with books that called my name. Psychology and the Beatniks were the subjects I studied while the rest of my peers learned about history and danced around in gym. It carved a habit in me of being perpetually self-taught and wildly mucked up my later years as I continued to come into knowledge on my own rather than toe the line of tradition. It’s why my artwork has no genre and why editors of my articles oftentimes ask me what a word is that I have seemed to make up out of thin air.
It’s no different when it comes to cooking. My cuisine is a bastard child of my mother’s mid-western roots and my sophisticated and multicultural adult palate. If you were to ask me for a definition of that I am not sure I could form a proper sentence to explain although I could spit out a lot of words that might formulate some sort of picture. Things like heavy cream, mushroom soup, French, Indian, Greek, hot and spicy, coconut, raw, greens, butternut, dark chocolate, barley and lamb might start the association parade. In my kitchen, there is no rhyme or reason. If I find something I love, I buy it and try to make things with it – more times than not, these things are hybrid mixes of cuisines that would cause a purist to scoff or make an Elitist epicurean shiver.
Take for instance the blasphemized stir-fry I made for breakfast yesterday. Yes, I said breakfast – and it was what I was hungry for so why shouldn’t I eat it in the morning? The ingredients were as follows:
Indian Fenugreek spice and basmati rice
Red onion from a friend’s garden
Hawaiian coconut oil
American leftover BBQ pulled chicken
Together all of those ingredients made for a sweet tropical stir-fry with plenty of heat that spelled heaven in my mouth and I am sure if others were around to taste it they would agree.
Most of the chefs I know say the same thing. That even though they may have gone to school to learn the basics, or studied a particular culinary style or the food of a specific region, that it all boils down to finding what you love and practicing the art of cooking it, over and over again, with your tongue to guide the flavor. Exploring, trying new things and tasting concoctions over and over is the only way, they say, to learn how to really cook after the books have all been put away.