Yesterday we ran part one of our interview with Christopher Kimball — editor, TV personality, and all-around food superstar — and today we've got part two. In this section Kimball compares gourmet cooking to gourmet sex. If you want to know exactly what that means, you'll just have to keep reading.
YumSugar: When you cook for yourself, do you follow recipes, or do you just make things up as you go?
Christopher Kimball: I have preached the value of a limited-recipe repertoire at home for years. Most folks should start with just 25 or so recipes until they can make them from memory and make them well. Then expand from there. So I have my repertoire and for those, I don't need a recipe. Plus, there are master recipes for roasting, braising, sautéing, stewing, etc., which — once one gets the hang of it — can be improvised. That being said, if I am making someone else's recipe, I always follow it religiously the first time. If it looks suspect or something seems out of whack, I just won't make it at all.
YS: I read an interview with you in which you said, "I think the gourmet cooking thing is over. That happened in the '70s." With our easy accessibility to fancier ingredients and exotic spices, do you think this is true still? If so, why?
CK: Gourmet cooking is for restaurants, not home cooks. This is hobby cooking and, for the most part, I am against it. It implies that everyday cooking is a chore and something to be avoided. I would rather focus on really good, everyday cooking — from-scratch oatmeal, a really good pancake, the perfectly-cooked skillet steak — then get all caught up in exotic ingredients and cuisines that most of us are not intimately familiar with. That doesn't mean that one shouldn't try new things once in a while for fun. But what would you think of someone who was promoting "gourmet sex" or "gourmet childrearing?" What's wrong with the day-to-day stuff? And isn't that more important anyway?
For the rest of the interview — learn all about his four freezers! —
YS: What advice would you give to an aspiring home chef?
CK: Stop trying to be a chef! Home cooks are not chefs; they are cooks plain and simple. Even Julia Child never liked being referred to as the French Chef. She was a cook. Keep it simple. Start with a small group of recipes. Get really good at them. Make food that means something to you and your family. Stick to the basics. Don't be ashamed of a good grilled-cheese sandwich or oven-fried chicken. Enjoy yourself!
YS: And finally, if we opened up your fridge, what would we find?
CK: Well, if you opened our freezers (we have four of them) you would find over 1,000 lbs. each of beef and pork from our own animals plus frozen corn from the summer and frozen apple cider from our orchard. There would be no junk food. (We do have the odd jar of marshmallow fluff since my 17-year-old, Caroline, loves to make Moon Pies — at least that is what she claims.) The closest we get is store-bought yogurt although we often make our own as well. You would find our own eggs, our bacon (my favorite food), low-fat milk as well as whole (my one nod to the low-fat craze), pickles, our own homemade jams, mayonnaise, lots of mustards, lots of cheese and butter, a jar of anchovies and capers, the odd package of herbs in the Winter (in Summer we pick them from the herb garden), the odd vegetable, buttermilk (always have that on hand for baking), peanut butter (my wife demands that we refrigerate open jars), at least one bottle of opened white wine, etc. We also have a full root cellar where we store our own maple syrup, honey, potatoes, beets, carrots, and apples. Now I am sounding like Alice Waters! Oy!