Thursday, May 15, 2008

Practice, practice, practice

For me, using a knife properly is very important, but it isn't the most natural of motions. Whether it be slicing, chopping, paring, carving or whatever. So, to get around deficiencies I practice continually.

For example, when I am going to eat an orange, I always peel it as if I am going to segment it for an elegant salad or dessert. In the words of Gordon Ramsay, "Using a small sharp knife, slice off the top and bottom of the fruit. Standing it firmly on the chopping board, cut along the curved sides of the fruit to remove the remaining peel and pith. Holding the fruit with one hand over a sieve, set on top of a bowl, cut along each side of the membranes to release the segments. Let each segment fall into the sieve as you continue segmenting."

Why when there is no real need? Because that way when I need to have elegant segments I have practiced enough to be able to handle the technique with confidence.

I was working on a project for 3 months - just outside Paris. The project hotel (The Marriott Courtyard near the airport) had a very good breakfast buffet. Anything that has unlimited smoked salmon and crusty bread gets my vote. They always had whole, unpeeled kiwi fruit in the fruit basket. I had seen Christopher Kimbell peel these whole using a spoon. Top and tail the fruit, and then slide a spoon between the peel and the fruit and rotate to loosen the peel. In Christopher Kimbell's hands this looked simple. It isn't! I practiced almost every day I was there - again not because that was the easiest way to eat the fruit, but because I wanted to have the technique in my back pocket. This of course became a project standing joke.

So practice in cooking techniques is like practice in everything. We do it to improve our abilities, but there aren't many opportunities. With food as expensive as it is, we want to be able to make sure we eat the results of our practising.

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