The Neglected Step: Season to Taste

Why is it that the simplest, most obvious things are the ones I obstinately miss?

I love to cook. Cooking is therapy time for me. If I’m working through some intense feelings or untangling a difficult thought process, I might write about it eventually, but first I’m going to cook my way through it. It allows me to backburner the emotional morass and somehow work through the fresh feelings and thoughts indirectly, constructively. It’s not so much about getting to the end result as it is about the process, the time, the care, the textures, measured time and rhythm.

But to be fair, it definitely helps when the food that hits the table afterward is palatable.

If I had to name the single most important rule to turning out a successful dish, it would be the simple, oft-neglected directive: Season to taste. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Taste, and then adjust seasonings. It appears in recipes—more often than not—myriad variations on this one theme. It appears more frequently than “Cook pasta in boiling water,” more frequently than “Heat oil in skillet,” and it seems just as elementary, just as self-evident.

Why, then, do I have such a big, fat mental block against doing it? Taste! Taste it! Before it reaches the table! My hubby and I have had a number of discussions around meal prep wherein we remind each other, “Don’t forget to taste it!” This seemingly endemic culinary mantra is often key to having a great meal, as opposed to a mediocre one.

I think I need to get a framed print of it for our kitchen. “Adjust seasoning to taste.”

What are the kitchen rules that you hold dear (and/or repeatedly forget)?

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  1. My French host mother insisted that salt did not belong on the table. If a cook had done his/her (usually her) job correctly, the food needed no additional seasoning once it was served.

    It drives Gene nuts that I never make the same thing twice. I rarely measure, and often cook witht he purpose of using ingredients up. He’ll love something that I’ve made and I’ll have no recollection of what went into it.

    • That’s interesting- That’s how my dad taught me to cook, too – maybe it’s a French thing? My mom, also an awesome cook, taught me to follow recipes – a great way to get comfortable with new techniques/flavors/ingredients. Do you tend toward a certain style of cooking?

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