Monday, February 19, 2007

Kitchen Magic

I have always wondered why most, if not all, of the great chefs and masters of the kitchen are men.

Growing up in a culture that often stereotypes women as fit only for the home,the hearth and kitchen, I would have liked to believe that women should make better cooks then men.

Women, I felt should have more of the patience, dedication and creative sensitivity that elevates the great cook from the merely good ones and what makes a dish a masterpiece of culinary art rather than just a tasty treat.

My brother-in-law, Al, has proven, time and time again, that this opinion is not only flawed but absolute hogwash.

Here is a man who is a man in every sense of the word, yet he not only revels but excels in the culinary arts. An orderly man with an analytical mind, comfortable with numbers and the complexities and subtleties of designing and constructing man-made structures, he brings that obsession with precision, accuracy and order to his love for cooking. Yet he is more than capable of the flashes of insight, creativity and artistic sensitivity that marks the real masters of the kitchen.

Dogmatic and rigid, he is not. He has a flair for experimentation, for trying new and untried methods and a willingness to risk everything on a whim or sudden bolt of inspiration. And he never gives up trying to improve his craft, to learn new things or unlearn that which has become irrelevant or obsolete.

I have been privileged time and time again to sit at his table and I have only but awe and admiration for his skill and artistry.

Houdini, the great escape artist and magician, once wondered if it is possible that a spectacular magical illusion done with consummate skill and finesse by a master illusionist can attain, as a result of such skilled execution, the level of true magic. That may never happen.

But in the realm of the kitchen kings like Al and the few others like him, such things happen regularly. For when they make their fabulous creations, there is only one logical explanation for the masterpieces they bring forth to the table.

It must be magic.

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