“A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” ~Thomas Keller
It is utter joy and gladness that fills my heart when I receive an enthusiastic comment from someone who has prepared one of my recipes with success.
In a moment like that, I am overcome with a feeling of deep gratitude and a sense of awe that I get to participate in this form of art and expression, one which not only allows me to share myself in such a personal and rich way, but also allows me to, hopefully, enrich and make better another’s life in some way.
And while it is true that I place a lot of importance on recording every detail possible during my process of recipe development—every step, every ingredient, every amount—I can of course only take credit for what I personally bring to a recipe.
In other words, I can only go so far as to choose the specific combination of ingredients, choose the specific quantities, and offer up the basic technique to help another along during their process.
I can only make certain (to the best of my ability, anyway) that the foundation is there for the one preparing my recipe to create as delicious, nourishing, and comforting a meal as they possibly can.
But the rest—that more ethereal, soulful, and magical aspect of the cooking process—is completely out of my hands, and can only be found in the hands of the one who is preparing the recipe that I have written.
A good recipe in and of itself can never turn a preparation that lacks love into something amazing and heavenly.
It is up to the one who is handling the ingredients, stirring the pot, and tasting as they go to make sure that something amazing and wonderful comes together, something that will sustain and bring pleasure and life, and possibly even create a beautiful connection with another human being.
And the magic that I speak of, that ethereal yet absolutely essential ingredient that one adds while they are cooking, is their love.
Love should be the first thing that one tastes when they take a bite of a perfect piece of fried chicken, or enjoy a spoonful of hot, comforting soup…
Love should be the first thing that one tastes when they twirl a fork into a bowl of pasta slathered with a rich sauce, or spoon up soft, creamy polenta topped with savory braised beef…
And if there were a hundred deeply flavorful ingredients to be found in a recipe, there will always be something lacking when love is not among those ingredients in copious amounts.
And in this regard, I, the one who develops a recipe, can take neither the credit nor the blame, ultimately…
I may write the most basic, simple recipe; but when someone prepares it with genuine love and a desire to share and to nourish, then that recipe comes alive and becomes the most complex and layered meal one has ever experienced.
Or I may write the most intricate, detailed, ingredient-heavy, and multi-step recipe that I possibly could; yet it would lack flavor, robustness, and depth if the one preparing it did not sprinkle into their pan that most necessary ingredient of all, their love.
Whenever I receive a positive comment or a raving compliment on one of my recipes, I know with all of my heart and without a doubt that it turned out the way that it did because the one preparing it was wonderfully liberal with their love, sprinkling it in with abandon and in abundant quantities.
And while my recipe was there as a guide to provide them with the basic ingredients, quantities, and steps, that is all that it can truly provide.
A good recipe in and of itself can never turn a preparation that lacks love into something amazing and heavenly. It alone cannot be credited for the nourishment and pleasure received when love, that most essential and necessary ingredient of all, has been added to it.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.