“A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” – Thomas Keller
The Dapper Dog Cooks? I’m not a chef, not even close. I don’t profess to know all the gourmet techniques of the pros. But, I believe I am pretty good at making meals for my family that my wife seems to enjoy immensely and my kids don’t paint the walls with them so….. maybe that’s an expert to some degree in my world.
I have an aversion to following recipes because, honestly, I never measure anything, but I started writing a few things down as I cooked at the behest of my wife who follows recipes to a T (and I mean a capital, perfectly printed T). You can imagine her horror when I tell her to add a “good helping” of ingredient X…
It was actually pretty difficult for me trying to get my recipes down with measurements, but I thought, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” or properly cooked and well seasoned if you’re into that sort of thing, but you won’t find any elephants being cooked on this site!
So back to the task at hand… I am here to write about a few tricks I have learned through trial and plenty of errors. But my main thought process with cooking is to just make cooking fun and tasty.
My cooking is all about homemade fun cooking, no chef skills required. I only say this because I am a self-taught cook, not a chef, who grew up in southernish kitchens. Two very different kitchens to be precise. The two kitchens I spent the most time in would be my grandmother’s (dad’s mom) and my mom’s. My grandmother was a South Georgia cook through and through and her husband (my dad’s dad) believed if a little bit is good, then a lot must be better when it came to seasoning food.
My mom grew up in Alabama. But she did not grow up in a southern kitchen. She had two wonderful parents from the Northeast. And judging by my Nana’s (mom’s mom) cooking, I don’t know if people from Massachusetts had ever heard of salt haha, just kidding my good northern people. So let’s just say she comes from the complete opposite school of thought from my grandfather. Love you, Mom!
I tried a little cooking in college. I say a little because I flooded my kitchen trying to thaw a Boston Butt in the sink and decided to stick with Qdoba, Chic-fil-a, Gumby’s, and Waffle House after that. Then I met a lovely lady named Catherine (now my wife) and we both moved to St. Simons Island. This is where I developed my love for cooking. It had nothing to do with being near the ocean but more or less out of boredom. I couldn’t hit golf balls for 12 hours in a day and when it got dark I needed something to do. Catherine sometimes stayed at the office a little late and after this happened a few times I thought hmm how can I be productive. So I started watching Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, Ina Garten, Paula Deen, and every other Food Network chef. I kind of got hooked! I have since weaned myself off of the Food Network thanks to the current content. But if I’m scrolling the channels and find Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, I will tune in to see some of the crazy creations made by my fellow “cooks.”
So, I started cooking with help from my TV friends. I would leave the golf course after a long day of practice and stop by the local grocery store to try something I’d cooked up in my head the night before. I would come home, turn on some music, crack a beer, and start creating. It took quite a while and a lot of good-natured smiles and compliments out of courtesy from Catherine, but I finally got to a point where I wasn’t all that bad. That was probably 12 years ago! So after 12 years of experience, I actually get genuine smiles and heart-felt compliments from Catherine.
I’m southern, but not all of my cooking is southern. To quantify the southern aspect of this, I grew up in a small town in south Georgia, but don’t worry, I don’t slather on the butter and fry everything in sight. I cook and am guided by what tastes good to me. Whether it be southern, southwestern, Asian, Italian, or northeastern (yes, if that’s a thing), I put my own spin on it.
Many of my creations are guided by or interpreted from great meals that I’ve enjoyed – either while dining out or in a friend’s home. I think through the flavors, what aspects I liked and the ingredient combinations to create my own unique spin.
Speaking of creating your own spin, I hope you do that with mine. Kind of like I did to all my friends: Bobby, Tyler, Paula, and Ina. Don’t hesitate to make a tweak here or there by dialing back the spice or turning up the heat to make it more suitable to you or your family’s taste. Don’t be too hard on yourself and have fun. Cheers and bon appetit from a southern boy who loves to eat, drink, and dine.
P.S. There will be tips, tidbits, tricks and let’s just call them “guidelines” (as well as funny experiences) to follow. Ranging from my twist on a good old-fashioned Kentucky Mule to BBQ (this is the south) and a Farro Salad bursting with flavor.