My Cooking Story
For me, cooking is just another form of creativity – a very tangible one. I learned the basics from Jim, who maintains that all American men can cook, even if they cook badly. Then during our ten years living in the mountains, I cooked practically every meal we ate and it was the best possible training. We had a regular supply of weekend guests and big groups over holidays, so cooking for others became my passion. I remember one particular New Year’s Eve, when I made a fifteen-dish Arabian dinner. It took two full days to prepare, but it was worth it.
My cooking changed dramatically when we moved back to Prague, where fresh ingredients are available 24 hours a day. It made me realize how spoiled city people are with this convenience, yet there was no connection to seasonal food, no way to walk into the garden for fresh herbs. Life got (and still is) really busy and for a while I too fell into the trap of just walking down to our corner restaurant or getting a pizza.
My Favorite Cuisines
I’m not a great fan of ‘traditional’ Czech cuisine. What you find in Czech restaurants and homes today has little to do with what our ancestors ate. There are no more crawfish or clams in our streams and no more quail and grouse in the woods. I’ve never cooked dumplings and don’t think I will. Luckily, I picked up a lot of inspiration during my travels.
Within Europe, I absolutely adore Italian food. I greatly enjoyed Thai food when we visited Thailand in 1997 and fell in love with American cuisine in 1999. Yes, Americans do have a regionally varied ‘cuisine’ beyond McDonalds. I’ve had the opportunity to taste local specialties – from apple-cranberry cider in Pennsylvania, to peanut brittle in Florida, catfish in New Orleans, Texas pit BBQ, California’s vegetable delights and fish chowder in Maine. Amazing… and very underestimated.
My most recent experiments are from the Middle Eastern cuisines. I’m mostly interested in their treatment of vegetables, use of spices and overall style of eating.
In 2009 I met a professional chef who increased my interest in cooking to yet another level. We shared a space called Gallery Hunger, where I had my studio and he worked his magic in the kitchen, teaching cooking and organizing events for foodies. I never got around to actually taking the full lessons, but got to critique his daily experiments and taste the results – from home-made pasta, to crème brulee, to sushi.
The one thing that did rub off was his fearless attitude about experimenting, making something out of next to nothing. Creativity at its best. Another thing I’ve seen close-up was cooking in large quantity, for parties of 30 to 70 people, all in a makeshift studio kitchen.
My current interest is cooking for the freezer. Occasionally I spend an entire day cooking and produce large numbers of freezer-friendly packages. I have now expanded this practice to include my friends, because it’s cheaper for several of us sharing costs and much more fun. The results are spectacular, yet faster, cheaper and more inventive than we would ever produce when we’re tired and time-constrained at the end of a busy day.
As you might guess, I have multiple food-related projects in my head, both for cookbooks and a web site. Time, time, time. But, in the meantime, I collect recipes and experience. It’ll happen.