It’s a Thursday night, and I’ve been dividing my attention between a bowl full of dried mushrooms soaking in hot water and a bottle of Hoegaarden, getting ready to braise some beef for supper. This being the week before rent, the cut of meat is cheap, but I am going to do my best to make it turn out well, to use my limited skills in the kitchen and hopefully turn a 99-cent package of shoulder steak into something delightful. It isn’t enough that it be edible, it has to be good.
And what does it really mean to cook good? Cooking good not only means opening up the pantry on the day you emptied your bank account paying the landlord and turning whatever you find there into a tasty dinner, but also getting a bit of a sick thrill in trying to figure it out, pulling together odds and ends and turning them into something more than just nourishment, something more than just food – cooking good means taking what you have and trying to make something special. Cooking good isn’t reading a recipe and adding up ingredients like a math equation, it’s looking around at your immediate surrounds, seeing what’s available, and turning those things into something that fulfills your need to experience something delicious.
In this way, we really haven’t strayed that far from our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
With food, necessity isn’t just the mother of invention, but the catalyst for extraordinary experiences. A lot of people out there don’t feel that they can cook really good food because they lack the resources to procure fine ingredients. Certainly, it’s going to be impossible to completely recreate a Thomas Keller or Wylie Dufresne dish without the money and suppliers they work with. Expensive ingredients aren’t what made those guys so great, though – what made them good was technique, practice, and instincts that let them take fearless risks. You might not be able to buy the finest ingredients, but learning the techniques costs only time and patience. Those techniques are just as good for the fresh food you buy at the local supermarket as they are for the finest food in the world – and you’ll get the pleasure of seeing people taste something that surprises them.
Arkansas Foodies is the product of two people passionate about food. Arkansas has never been considered a hotbed of haute cuisine, but there are some great places to eat around here – we are going to provide reviews of some of those places. We cook at home a lot, and we’ll be posting recipes we’ve tried along with tales of our successes (or failures). Our tastes range from French aristocrat to Southern sharecropper, so expect any and all of that sort of thing. Mostly, this blog is a labor of love from two people who don’t want to take the easy way out by filling up on the Dollar Menu – we want to seek out new tastes and ingredients, stretch our imaginations, and cook (and eat!) as well as we can.