Updated: May 20, 2020
When I launched Sprout & Spice, I sought feedback pertaining to how the site might be more useful on-the-go & in the kitchen. Some reported being overwhelmed or feeling like they were out at sea with a compass but no paddle (or with a paddle but no compass, choose your own hopeless adventure). All this to say, there is a perceived lack of further guidance beyond the simple one-to-one ingredient pairing. Amid other foreseeable updates, launching the “No-Recipe Recipe” series will be my attempt at addressing that need in a creative, albeit circuitous, manner. It’s a thought experiment marrying two of my favorite things, cooking and thinking about how people think about things (like food).
Before I proceed with my experimental diatribe, I want to preface that, in the chaotic, surreal times we all find ourselves in, it’s natural to fall back on what feels comfortable. It’s that blanket of safety that soothes us to a place of emotional rest and relaxation. This may mean getting through your evening with some takeout or perusing NYT recipes online for a new “to do”. There’s a time and place for everything, and both the time and place for comfort has been both these past couple of weeks…and the foreseeable future. I greatly respect and endorse the zone of comfort. (As I write, I am quite literally stretched out on a textile many would classify as a “comforter” with my feet slipped into plastic sock-shaped conditioning masks…The defense rests.)
I belabor my support of self-care because the approach to cooking I promote requires a tolerance for (say it with me) uncertainty and a little bit of messiness. At the very least, it’s a nod to the fluid nature of flavor in cooking. Cooking is an artistic and ambiguous process, but our dependency on recipes often has us perceive it as an exact science. Am I the only person who feels a tickle of agitation when I pull up a recipe and one, two or three substitutions need to be made? The more I deviate from the real meal beautifully captured online, the more likely my dish comes out looking deflated, off-colored, and sporting an inedible chip on its dainty, little shoulder.
Of course, there are times I’ve had the forethought to shop accordingly for a hot looking thing I found online, and it ends up being a token recipe for years to come. Don’t get me wrong here; recipes are not going anywhere, nor should they. Much like how a hot date idea can zhoosh up the intimacy in a relationship that’s gone a little stale-iano, recipes are a go-to for when you are in a food rut and need to change things up. That being said, the practice of trying out recipes is not that sustainable for many of us.
So in this period of “cocoon-ery”, my intention is to lean into the uncertainty and ambiguity of cooking, perhaps even reach a place of embracing the freedom that comes with no guidance. For each “no-recipe” recipe, I will begin with a simple ingredient pairing and go from there, documenting my musings and posting badly lit photos along the way. I may even resort to watercolor (my new quarantine activity) as my visual medium if I'm feeling the recipe could benefit from a psychedelic touch. As I mentioned earlier, there is an element of artistic experimentation in cooking. In the spirit of staying true to the purpose of this (and not trying too hard), I expect that blog will reflect this messy, but somewhat honest approach.