Priya Krishna on ‘Cooking at Home’ with David Chang

Several years ago, I went on a somewhat fanatical mission to find a satisfying copy of what I called the “Behind the Cookbook” – a book that not only lists recipe instructions but also explains the thinking behind them.

Food journalist Priya Krishna and David Chang, founder of the Momofuku family of restaurants, have written together a charming new entry in the subgenre, Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (and Love My Microwave). The book’s “recipes-that-not-really-recipes” tend to forego accurate measurements of ingredients and time, and instead emphasize intuition, customization, and experimentation. Krishna and Chang offer a set of adaptable cooking schemes for readers to repeat—say, a general formula for cooking a cheap cut of meat or preparing a vinaigrette—and envision the recipe not as a “strict guideline, but lip madness.”

In a dungeons and dragons style alignment chart, cooking at home It would be a “good mess”. It’s casual, cheerful, eclectic, discursive and not at all busy with the “right” way of cooking. The pair embrace microwaves and frozen vegetables, and Zhang writes that when cooking for his family, his job is to “make something as delicious as possible, in the least amount of time, while making as little mess as possible.”

I recently spoke with Krishna, a food reporter at New York times and author Indian-ish: recipes and anecdotes from a modern American family, about writing recipes that don’t come as a series of wills, as well as the gap between how home cooking is portrayed in food media and how it is actually played out in people’s kitchens. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


Joe Pinsker: Your book has a section on the glory of microwave ovens. What makes them so great?

Priya Krishna: I grew up in a house where we had two microwaves and they were used a lot, not just to heat food, but to make potatoes, make rice, and make dishes like pulao. My parents worked and my mom was very busy, but she loved cooking, so she was always looking for these shortcuts and cooking things up in the microwave. My mom taught me that there’s no shame in creating shortcuts and giving yourself a break. And to this day, I don’t like spending hours piling up in the kitchen [dirty] Dishes – love the efficiency. in a indian nestThere are microwave instructions for things like rice and potatoes because that’s what my family does.

It really saves a lot of time, and I absolutely hate cleaning stuck rice out of the pot. Instead, you can just pay [the rice] In the microwave and forget until the rest of your meal is ready. You can watch the potatoes boil on the stovetop for 25 minutes, or you can put them in the microwave for five minutes. I don’t know why no one would do the latter.

Pinsker: Why do you think some home cooks underestimate – or even mock – microwaves, frozen vegetables, and other kitchen amenities?

Krishna: There is a true love story that connects people with buying fresh vegetables at the farmers market and lovingly preparing them over a stove. Which is cool, but to me it feels like it belongs in another era. Some people look at anything that goes against the scratch mindset. I worked in food media, and in the places I worked, I had never seen people use frozen vegetables or microwaves. So I also think institutions and publications don’t push this stuff, so maybe that’s why more chefs aren’t using it.

Pinsker: There is a line in the cooking at home About how to speed up frozen pizza by running it in the microwave and then finishing it in the oven got me thinking about the boundaries people draw around what can be described as “cooking.” Like, does what you’re doing with that pizza count as cooking?

Krishna: I think we need to stop obsessing over what counts as cooking. If you’re putting a meal on the table at the house you’ve prepared, that means cooking. It doesn’t matter if you heat something in the microwave or if you grill a whole chicken – it cooks. In this age of Instagram making food look beautiful and promoting an ambitious lifestyle, we’ve kind of given up on the value of practicality.

It was refreshing to work on a project that was such a guiding principle. We didn’t hire a food stylist for the photography, because we wanted to show the food as it exists in real life, not a premium version of it that might be really difficult for a home chef to recreate.

Pinsker: How do you think about the discrepancy between how home cooking is represented in food media and cookbooks and how it ends up in reality?

Krishna: In the food media, there is an obsession with making food look perfect, something you can do by designing and dripping cilantro over the plate. indian nest It was food style because we really wanted the food to look great and beautiful. But I think this comes at the cost of meeting people wherever they are, which is sometimes a kitchen not pretty light, with less than perfect produce, with herbs about to spoil. There is real beauty in making something delicious in those circumstances.

Pinsker: The recipes seem like neutral technology, but you write about how you code it a certain way of thinking about cooking. How is that?

Krishna: I had this interesting conversation with my friend Yewande [Komolafe] On the limitations of the traditional Western method of writing recipes, systematically listing ingredients and method. For both of us and Dave [Chang] Also, during ripening, recipes were not written down – cooking was an orally transmitted tradition. It was very intuitive. You watched your mom rolling a roti and this was how you knew how to make a roti. A written recipe as we know it traps you in this kind of white-coded framework. There are plenty of books and websites out there that offer over-the-counter recipes – this is clearly nothing new – but for us it was about staying true to the way we were brought up and how we honestly believe that people can become the best, most self-sufficient chefs.

Pinsker: How is a less strict approach to recipes beneficial?

Krishna: Compare it to Google Maps. The directions are so bad, I won’t get any better because I have Google Maps – I’ll always use my phone instead of figuring out how to navigate my way around New York without a map. The recipes are a bit like Google Maps: we depend on them, so we don’t actually get much better at cooking. We are just getting better at following the recipe.

I think there is value in noting and writing things down, rather than just passing things on through oral tradition. So the way we wanted to write the cookbook was like, We write these things, but we don’t write a recipe as if it were the last and last word on the subject. I don’t want to fully exploit the idea of ​​the recipe, but I think we should not be afraid to play with the format and make it more dynamic.


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