Let me tell you about the time I made a make-shift double boiler while making brownies for my Cub.
It started innocently enough. You see, this was a time before I had stumbled across my hazelnut brownie recipe and I was CONSTANTLY on the search for an ooey, gooey brownie with a slightly crispy outside, a feat that is difficult to accomplish without copious amounts of butter and egg. So, I was trying this weird-ass recipe that called for making a paste of cocoa, oil and water before adding this goop to the dry ingredients.
Naturally, I added in some chocolate for extra brownie goodness. However, I guess my boiling water wasn’t hot enough for this goop I was making and it just wouldn’t come together. I figured if I just had more heat it would work so, I used my tiny little brain and came up with the idea to make a double-boiler type deal with a large bowl and a pot with boiling water in order to melt the chocolate enough so I could mix the goop effectively.
If anyone else has ever tried this, perhaps you know as well as I do that science will always work against you. Hence, the situation you see at the beginning of this post: the bowl got suctioned on so tight to the pot that I couldn’t budge it at all. It was so tight, it created a waterproof seal.
I tried prying it apart with my huge biceps. I tried oiling it and moving it back and forth. I tried bashing it on the ground. By the time my Cub returned from her meeting, the brownies were done (they were sub-par, by the way. Not that that stopped us) and I’d come to terms with the fact that I’d be buying her a new bowl and pot.
Fortunately, my Cub is an engineer and science works for her. We resorted to the internet, tried a couple more things and…voila!
We got it. For anyone wondering “How do you separate a bowl and a pot that are suctioned together?”, the answer is to put the pot on the stove, turn it on and wait for it to come loose. Fun fact!
That story was just to introduce something I’ve only recently started to think about: kitchen intuition or, as I call it, kitch-intuition. Have you ever noticed how some people are slaves to recipes and some people are able to look into a fridge of seemingly random ingredients and make a meal out of it?
As a recent experience with my Cub taught me, I am now a member of the latter category but, I used to be even less than the opposite: I refused to cook or even learn anything. Somehow, I got it in my head that cooking would make me a Stepford wife and was anti-feminist. I thought learning to cook would instantly doom me to a future of being a miserable housewife, chained to the stove all day.
And then I became a vegetarian. Not that that made me love cooking over night but, I was on my way. I’d start trying foods I’d never tried before–like any salad other than Caesar–and ate a few more veggies. It was really when I started trying to reduce my consumption of animal products (maybe in 2011 sometime? I don’t know. I don’t keep track these things) that I branched out and started trying all kinds of ethnic foods–Mexican and Indian to start with, but soon things I thought I would NEVER like, like sushi, Thai or Ethiopian. Now, ethnic restaurants are my go-to places for noms because they usually have tons of options for a veggie lover like me!
Within all of this, I was trying to reduce my consumption of animal products to lessen my carbon footprint and put more good out into the world. I was already cooking more–mainly using recipes–but I started making “challenges” for myself because I’m a freak and love to challenge myself; veganize this cookie recipe, make really good vegan cookies, try to make delicious gluten-free cake, nail a veggie burger recipe. Soon, and without my knowledge, the little challenges had become a way of life and I would rarely (if at all) use animal products in things that I made, even if I’d occasionally eat them while I was out.
Then, I was able to start “freestyling” a little more. If I didn’t have something in a recipe, I’d replace it with something on hand; if I wanted to make something with applesauce instead of oil, I’d try it; if I wanted to throw a bunch of spices into something just because I thought it could be good, I would.
These days, I follow a lot of food blogs. I mean, a lot. Sometimes I’ll make one of the recipes I see because it looks SSSOOOO good or I’m tired and out of ideas, although this usually happens with savoury things because, let’s be honest, baking is my forte. Usually, if I want to bake something outside of my usual repertoire, I’ll find a recipe, look at it to figure out the basic proportions and figure the rest out (this ability always amazes the Beef).
This is what I call my “kitch-intuition”. I more or less know my way around my staple ingredients–how they taste, how they affect a recipe, how they’ll react to other ingredients–but it took a long-ass time to get here. It took a lot of flat muffins, dry cookies and, in one instance, tar-like brownies (although that was because of a faulty recipe) to know my way around. As “amazing” as my ability seems, it really comes from a few key things:
1.) Trying A TON of different foods, cuisines and ingredients
2.) Being familiar with even more types of foods, cuisines and ingredients
3.) (Most importantly) Willingness to TRY. TRY different cuisines. TRY foods out of the ordinary. TRY new ingredients you come across. TRY crazy flavour combos. TRY weird things!
I’ll say it again even though you just read it: you have to try. You’ll fail (if you’re really committed, you’ll fail a lot, like me) but you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. You’ll realize that too much liquid in muffins will result in bricks, despite them being oil and refined-sugar free. You’ll realize that you don’t need to bake things as long if there’s little or no oil in them. You add spices gradually and figure out what you need based on how it’s tasting. You realize that you should exercise caution when making a homemade double boiler device. You do it over and over and over until you get the hang of it, until you can feel what it needs.
That, my Internets, is how you find your kitch-intuition. You make a homemade double boiler.