humor me for a second here.
imagine, if you will, a pork belly.
now imagine not rubbing it generously with pink curing salt and/or nitrates. imagine not curing or smoking it. imagine not using it to make bacon or any bacon-esque food (e.g. pancetta, proscuitto, speck, canadian bacon, etc).
as bobby frost, united states poet laureate from 1958-1959, once wrote:
“two roads diverged in a supermarket, and i, | i took the meat less traveled by | and that has made all the difference.”
or at least i think that’s how it went…
how do those iron chefs do it?
super chefs have some sort of sixth sense that allows them to recognize the exact weight of each ingredient required to prepare a single portion of their dish. when they pull the curtain off the secret ingredient in kitchen stadium, i like to think the iron chefs are thinking “ok, i’ve got this licked. i’m going to need one scallop, two figs, 3 grams of cheese, 5 ml of wine, and a 20cm strip of phyllo dough per plate.” i think maybe it is a gland or extrasensory organ we normal humans just don’t have.
regardless, the portions come out perfect every time. nobody has leftovers on iron chef. the members of the celebrity scoring panel never take home extra black truffle and snow crab terrine to microwave the next day.
or do they?
this post is going to start with a little bit of unadulterated praise.
most chefs who prepare washoku in a restaurant setting have a truly incredible attention to detail, which can encompass everything from the taste of their dish to the geometry of their plating. as is the case with a lot of facets of life in japan, there seems to be a tried and true method behind most japanese recipes. some of these methods are easily explained and demonstrated, while others seem, for lack of a better word, almost magical.
i often find myself in childlike awe when watching a few of my japanese friends cook their specialty dishes. watching pros prepare foods like slow-simmered fish heads, deep sea angler hot pot, or dozen-egg rolled omelettes is mind-blowing. of course the end product tastes great. but the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients they use necessitates a borderline superhuman culinary sense. a culinary sense which can only be acquired through (what i assume to be) trial and error.
that being said, i am not japanese. i have the attention to detail required to cook complex japanese food, and on occasion i even use it. but i like to cook on the fly. i’m not much one for patient measuring, complex kitchen tools, or difficult techinques. i have a very deliberate personal style when it comes to cooking.
sometimes, that style involves getting drunk, nearly cutting off my fingers, forgetting that the stove is on, and starting a fire in my kitchen.
as the greatest song writer, performer, poet, actor, philosopher, and sage of my childhood once said, “it’s not easy being green.”
although kermit the frog was of course referring to himself and the hard road he followed to the tippy-top of muppet stardom, the old adage rings true in a variety of other walks of life. frogs aren’t the only delectable morsels who get a bad wrap for their color.