Learn How to Cook in the Green Kitchen
09 May, 2010
When one hears the names of such legendary chefs as Alice Waters, Dan Barber and Rick Bayless, or watches them cook on any of the numerous television shows or documentaries in which they’ve been featured, one might only marvel at the skill, artistry and finesse with which they create their culinary wonders.
In 2008, an event was held in San Francisco called Slow Food Nation. Alice Waters, one of the organizers of the event, knew that people would be coming from all over the country to taste and learn about cooking. So she and her co-organizers decided to include a simple demonstration kitchen as part of the event, consisting of only a table, a couple of sharp knives, a cutting board, a hot plate, a mortar and pestle, and a compost bucket. The point was to show what all great chefs have in common: a set of basic techniques common to all cuisines.
The event spawned an online series of videos called The Green Kitchen, which then evolved into a book entitled In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart. The entire focus of the book is to communicate the simple procedures that the chefs demonstrated at the event and in the videos so that the reader/student can get a technical foundation. From such a foundation, one can cook comfortably and confidently without recipes, inspired by the ingredients to hand. The book of course contains recipes, but the idea is to teach these basic techniques.
“It seems to me that the key to ensuring good food for the future is getting more people to cook,” Chef Dan Barber, one of the contributors to the book, told Organic Connections. “Not just special-occasion rib roast kind of cooking, but the humble everyday cooking that is simple and intuitive. It’s more healthful, more ecological, and certainly more economical than dining out (not to mention more delicious). That might sound self-destructive for a chef, but it’s an important step in reconnecting to where our food comes from.”
Barber is among 30 contributors to the book, including Paul Bertolli, Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry, Rick Bayless, Darina Allen, Lidia Bastianich, and many more.
“At home in their own kitchens, even the most renowned chefs do not consider themselves to be chefs; there, they are simply cooks, preparing the simple, uncomplicated food they like best,” Alice Waters wrote in the introduction to In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart. “Preparing food like that does not have to be hard work. On the contrary, the whole process—thinking about food, deciding what you want to eat, shopping for ingredients, and, finally, cooking and eating—is the purest pleasure, and too much fun to be reserved exclusively for ‘foodies.’”
The basic procedures described in the book are many and include dressing a salad, simmering a stock, making bread, roasting vegetables and grilling a steak. Waters explains that the featured recipes are intended as examples of techniques that apply to all cooking everywhere.
“In her new book, Alice hosts a party of friends and co-conspirators who demystify ‘good’ cooking, showing us how cooking in season can be easy and fun,” co-contributor Anna Lappé told Organic Connections. “In our Iron Chef celebrity culture, it’s easy for cooking to feel like something only people on TV do. This book helps lay the foundations of good eating by encouraging the experimentation and freestyle cooking that I adore and that makes healthy eating accessible to all of us.”
“Alice’s concept (like most things she does) was simple and compelling: Give people the tools they need in the kitchen,” Dan Barber added. “Inspire and instruct, but do it deliciously. There’s no ego to these recipes—they’re accessible and endlessly utilizable for the home cook. It’s not a coffee-table cookbook, which is why I love it.”
To see Alice Waters’ online video series The Green Kitchen, visit www.alicewatersgreenkitchen.com.