We can’t help it, but we have a thing with Spanish cuisine right now. The climate is similar to our’s, and we both have Spanish blood running through us. Last year, we borrowed and watched all the episodes of Spain…On the Road Again. Who can resist Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman, and Claudia Bassols on an eating road trip through Spain, and a theme song sung by Willie Nelson? Fortunately, there is a companion book to the show, including recipes and cultural notes about the places they visit.
Flipping through the recipes of fried eggplant, cordero lechal, and images of jamon, there’s this great transcript of a conversation between Mark Bittman and Gwyneth Paltrow when they were visiting the Alhambra. There’s a bit of the conversation that is actually really poignant in the current conversation about getting back to eating locally and seasonally, and ultimately about revitalizing cooking at home. If you’re just learning how to cook and look to cookbooks in particular for guidance, these are some helpful insights.
Mark: I always say that there are four stages of learning how to cook. The first is you slavishly follow recipes; the second if you look through cookbooks, compare recipes, and pick one that makes sense to you; the third is you look at a bunch of recipes, then you walk away and cook something based on them but loosely; and the fourth is you don’t think about recipes at all, you just take the ingredients and start cooking. The fourth is liberating. You just look in the refrigerator or market and start cooking.
Gwyneth: I’d say I’m about halfway there.
Mark: Well, it’s not that it’s really a goal, it’s an unconscious process. And you just get there at some point. What I find is that as I get older, I just keep cooking more simply; everything is getting simpler.
Gwyneth: Also, you feel good when you eat simply.
Mark: It’s a lot easier to get really good ingredients.
Gwyneth: And not have to season and disguise them so heavily.