Saturday, January 13, 2007

Food and Tastebuds

I have a large cookbook collection that I was strongly attached to until I the day I learned to Google recipes. Today I searched on "pork chops" "sweet potatoes" recipe and got one that also included onions and apples, two ingredients I had plenty of. It had been awarded many stars by 74 reviewers. The reviews made it clear just how individual we are.

"FABULOUS dish!" gushed one reviewer. Five stars. "Dry and bland," whined the next. Two stars. Actually, most of the reviews were positive, but a handful of deeply disappointed cooks was represented as well. I was impressed with how few cooks stuck to the original instructions. They'd rave about how delicious the recipe was, and then casually mention that they had increased the brown sugar, added cinnamon, browned the pork chops, added wine, threw in some nutmeg, and cooked the entire thing on top of the stove instead of in the oven. Almost everybody decreased the amount of black pepper. I can see why--the recipe called for two teaspoons!

This is the kind of thing you can't get from a cookbook. If I go through my old cookbooks and look up the recipes I've been making for years, nine times out of ten I can tell you that I've made adjustments to it. It's nice to read how others tweaked a recipe, and whether or not their tweaks yielded a good dish.

I made the pork chop recipe tonight, but I didn't follow the instructions either. Since I usually avoid sugar, I left the brown sugar out entirely. I like cinnamon, but I wanted this dish to be more savory than sweet so I wasn't tempted to put it in. Instead, I followed the suggestion of one reviewer and added garlic. I also added Tony Chachere's creole seasoning at the suggestion of another. And, after reading of the experiences of many of the reviewers, I browned the pork chops first and cooked the dish on top of the stove.

I liked it. Four stars.

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