Is there such a thing as a right way and a wrong way? As a Chef and a Gastronome, I do not believe culinary concepts are cast in stone. Many Jamaicans have a different opinion and are disinclined to step out of the box. For some folks, creativity often come across as “can’t cook” but these same folks will argue of being tired of the some ole’ thing every day.
In some cultures, salt and pepper are the only seasonings applied to some dishes. Try that in Jamaica, and you are likely to run out of business. The average person, even more, those who are health conscious and those with a dietary specification, will not knowingly accept MSG on their food. With the many flavourful herbs available in Jamaica if a little “powder seasoning” is not evident on the food “it want seasoning.” Much of our herbs and other local products have not been stretched to its fullest potential.
My wife ran out of browning (caramel) after cutting and seasoning the chicken for our Sunday dinner. I told her to add curry and cook it as that was available and I like it. She then indicated that the chicken was cut too big to be cooked like that plus it was our Sunday dinner.
Traditionally in Jamaica curry chicken is not famous for Sunday dinner. It might have been done but to a lesser degree and mostly by the ethnic backgrounds more closely linked to curry. However on the other hand, if it were curried goat, it would be broadly accepted as a Sunday dinner whereas browned stew or home-style goat would not have been, not even during the mid-week. Sure it is practical to cut goat meat in bite size for most cooking techniques, but that is not cast in stone. Similarly, I don’t see it wrong cooking curried chicken cut in 8s or 10s or even whole. The folk in “Westmoreland Curry Fest” curries every edible thing you can think of which is incredible.
Cooking is technique driven and is the basis of producing excellent quality food with consistency. Trying to learn cooking from recipes is a misconception, and folks struggle to learn via this route. If a chef were to braise chicken the chef would be more inclined to have 8 or 10 cut. If the chef uses a curry sauce as the braising liquid then sure, you would have braised curried chicken. Braising technique: To cook covered in small amount of liquid usually after preliminary browning. This is precisely what we do with our stews weather brown or curry. Cooks who are knowledgeable of the basic cooking techniques has no boundaries to the art of culinary. Recipe or Grandma trained cooks are excellent within limits.
There are certain fundamentals in the science of cooking, but we should look beyond what is normal and strive for an understanding of the process, product, and objective. We are mainly defeated by becoming satisfied and pause to question the raw material (Teoh, D. 2010). We should be open to exploring food. If we accept the concept that excellent cooking is and will always be an essential ingredient in uplifting our culture, then it should be safe to say there is no “proper way” to cook anything (Teoh, D. 2010).
Randie Anderson Executive Chef, CEC, CCA,WCEC, MSc Gastronomic Tourism.
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