Saturday, February 5, 2011

seeing isn't tasting

i've never liked cookbooks that don't have pictures. it seems to me that if you want people to crave your book's recipes, you would include as many flattering, mouthwatering images as possible. so whenever i see a recipe that doesn't have a photo with it, i usually just assume that the final product isn't worth photographing and therefore is not worth my time and sweat spent in the kitchen making it. sometimes i read over a recipe's text that sounds wonderfully delicious, but the lack of a photo instills enough doubt to keep me searching for one where the final flavor is neatly and clearly depicted with a sharp, colorful photograph.
this week may have changed all that.
while looking through a cookbook that my mother gave me, trying to decide what to make for dinner group, i settled on a dish with a nice image and simple ingredients. as i was checking out the cupboards to see what we had, the previously bent and stressed cookbook would relieve it's discomfort by turning itself to another page. each time i came back to refer to the recipe i had to stop and find it again. finally, after about the third time of sifting through the pages to find the recipe that looked so pretty, i stopped to read what page the book kept settling on. "chicken with pesto-mushroom cream sauce, and broiled asparagus with balsamic glaze," the title read. i quickly realized that it was combining four of my favorite flavors - pesto, mushrooms, cream, and balsamic vinegar. wanting to see what it looked like, i scanned the page, the previous page, and the back of the book for a photo of the final dish. to my discouragement, i couldn't find one. could i trust the title? the ingredients and execution seemed simple enough, but would it turn out nice? what if it just looked like green, slimey sludge? how could i go ahead without seeing the end first?
in the end i decided just to go for it. i felt blind as i followed the steps but just kept moving anyway - hoping that it would all work out. it was a little nerve-racking, and by the end the heat from the stove was trying to convince our oven-sized kitchen to bake me, but it was soon over and the meal was ready. the final result did not look exactly as i imagined it, but it matched, if not surpassed, the ideal i had in mind. when i first tasted the sauce i knew i had made the right choice. it was rich, savory, and smooth, while the balsamic glaze was sweet and acidic. i washed the dishes with a full stomach and a completely satisfied palate. if i had only known how pleasant the final flavor was, i would not have deliberated so long in making my choice. it was worth enduring every doubt.