My cooking life has been a weird one. Most people start out making things like burgers and mac and cheese; me, I started with braises and roasts and only now (almost ten years later) have I started getting comfortable making the stuff that most people make at the beginning of their cooking careers. Burgers are a good example. I had only cooked burgers once before in my life and it was in the oven. Never had I shaped a patty, plopped it on to a grill or into a cast iron skillet and lifted it on to a bun. And, true to form, even last week, when I finally did this thing that most cooks–most American cooks–do all the time, I didn’t just make normal burgers. I made lamb burgers and I served them with Greek salad.
It’s true that travel is an important component of any burgeoning chef’s education, but sometimes you go somewhere and the lessons don’t stick. For example, I spent ten days last summer in Spain–most of that time in Barcelona–and though we ate some truly extraordinary food, I can’t really say that it changed the way I cook. Yes, I use smoked paprika a bit more freely in my food and I’m very intrigued by the possibilities of pairing chickpeas with seafood, but beyond that? I’m still the same old me in the kitchen.
However, the trip I took in 2005 with my family to Greece (see here), stuck in a very important way: I now make a very good, very authentic Greek salad.