June 7, 2006
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Speed 2

How My Cooking Has Changed : part 4

Speed is perhaps the biggest change in the way I think about cooking.

I used to think that speed was incidental, a nice side-effect. If you worked fast, perhaps you could get out of the kitchen and back to work a few minutes faster. But speed is not a side-effect: efficiency is its own inner game, and speed is its own reward.

When you're cooking at home, you can afford to go to the pantry twice, or four times. At worst , if you're really inefficient, dinner might be a few minutes late. Who cares? Will anyone notice?

It doesn't matter that no one will notice. Efficiency is aesthetic, a challenge in itself. Do things right, you'll stay out of the weeds. Get everything you need; you save steps, you get more done, you think ahead.

Last weekend, we had a nice Sunday supper with an asparagus and mushroom sauté, a salad of roasted organic beets and home-smoked salmon, duck confit with buttermilk mashed potatoes and savory cherry compote, and roasted peaches topped with fresh blueberry sauce steeped with fresh thyme. The best part: I managed to stay entirely out of the weeds. No hurry, no worry. I don't think I've ever managed dinner for company without a few dandelions.

Thinking ahead -- working hard in the kitchen to save steps and time and to do things that need to be done correctly and not to do anything that doesn't need to be done -- is its own art, the inside game of cooking. It clears your mind. It keeps you from worrying about the office, or your upcoming conference, or your checkbook.

You're here because you want to be. You're cooking something good. Everything is in place. You're not in the weeds, you're not doing 360's at the range, you're not burning the potatoes today. You've got other things to do.