80% Peanut Butter

December 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

That dish that you will never live down? For me it was an Asian peanut sauce for a stir fry. It comes up every time Mike refers to me as the baker in the family – implying that he is the cook. It’s the only dish I remember cooking during my college years possibly because it was the only dish I cooked during my college years, but most likely because I totally botched it. It probably wouldn’t have been as memorable if I had made an ordinary portion of it but I managed to not only not measure the peanut butter in my sauce, but also not measure the noodles, carrots, baby corn, and snap peas because there was enough to feed my apartment floor, and their friends and pets.

Let’s just say I got ahead of myself. Recipe? Precise measurements? Who needs that, especially someone who has never really cooked so much as eggs and grilled cheese? But I had watched my mom and dad cook thousands of meals growing up! One of my favorite dishes my dad cooked regularly was his stir-fry. Baby corn always made an appearance in his stir-fry and I adopted it fully into my definition of what stir-fry was (and probably subconsciously figured if it was present all was good).

No amount of baby corn could rescue an Asian sauce that was 80% peanut butter. Also, apparently no amount of water and soy sauce could rescue it either. At the end of the day, the first step in my dad’s culinary shoes was a failure.

I botched two cookie recipes this weekend. Too salty. Too peanut buttery (the damn peanut butter again!). Both direct results of not measuring. There is a method to my madness, though. I see a future where I hardly measure things. I’ll still use those helpful vessels called measuring cups and spoons but I don’t want to rely on them. And I’m not talking tried and true recipes. I’m talking anything I want to make. What’s the quote? Shoot for the moon and if even if you miss you’ll land among the somewhat edible. Or something like that?

I’ve always felt that adhering to strict measurements warps the senses and strips away intuitive inklings on balance and proportions and what feels right. It leaves no room for mistakes, which are those little guys that are clothed in disappointment but underneath their seemingly cruel facade are really those kind but stern teachers that nudge you to be better and try harder so you can fine-tune your senses and build your intuition. And sometimes they’re comedians that follow you around and remind you how hilariously stupid it was to make an Asian peanut sauce that was 80% peanut butter.


“The things that used to make us feel safe are, in fact, now risky.”:  A mighty eloquent On Being interview with Seth Godin on not being a cog – might we extend this line of thinking to the kitchen? Hmmm?

Pastry Chef and Restaurateur Zoe Nathan Loeb embodying everything I feel and love about baking in 1 minute and 28 second video

The Ovenly cookbook that I recently purchased is 1) so fantastic – the flourless chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce is THE BEST 2) such a great reminder to grow some balls (see Zoe Nathan Loeb’s video) and try different flavor combinations, a.k.a PLAY, HAVE FUN, and add salt.


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