Sunday, October 11, 2009

Editorial: Judging food

After participating in the Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty cook-off last weekend, I started thinking about the way we judge food.  

In a cook-off, food is usually judged by taste, and possibly presentation. 

But how does our judgment of food change depending on the situation?  Do we judge food differently when we are in the grocery store? Buying at the farmers market? Harvesting from our own gardens? Shopping online? Eating at a restaurant? Cooking in our own kitchens? Enjoying a meal with friends? And what matters most? Taste? Looks? Price? Healthfulness? Convenience? Originality? Carbon footprint? Organic? Cruelty-free?

I was thrilled to be chosen as a finalist for the FLCB cook-off -- and quite surprised that my dish featuring beans and beets made it into the finals.  The event highlighted our fantastic array of local ingredients (recipes had to be at least 50% local).  First place went to an oat-cracker-goat-cheese-chocolate dessert, and second place went to a goat cheese cheesecake. Yum.

As much as I wish otherwise, food is not always about taste. My chili did not win 1st place, but maybe (just maybe), it would have a chance at gold in the:
  • "How do I feed a whole family a 'local' meal on a tight budget?" contest,
  • "I'm trying to eat less meat but I don't know what the heck to make" contest,
  • "Oh my gosh, what do I do with all the beets from my winter CSA?" contest,
  • "I need a dish that'll make half-decent leftovers for the week" contest,
  • "What dinner can be started during nap time and then ignored for an hour or so?" contest, or
  • "Maybe you have all the ingredients, maybe you don't" contest.

What contest would your cooking have a chance in?

1 comment:

  1. another part of the problem is trying to cook "gourmet" at all keeps us from cooking. i DO NOT cook fancy foods, but they're all solid, healthy, reasonably tasty meals. kids and adults in my house all cook together (when possible) and everyone knows what's in the food. we're raising kids who will know how to cook for themselves when they grow up, even if they choose not to. it would thrill me if any of them became a chef, but even if they don't they'll all be comfortable with a pot-holder and a spatula.

    thank you for putting a bit more practical back in our kitchen. hope you post that recipe, too. i want to try it!