At some point when I was still in high school, I got a book called “The ABC of Cooking” as a present from my dad. It was the kind of encyclopedic tome that was touted as having all the answers to your cooking questions. It had hundreds of Western and Arabic recipes, detailed lists of equipment, spices and cooking techniques and lots of troubleshooting tables like “reasons your cake has failed!”
I had high hopes I’d finally be able to replicate the amazing food I was tasting in local restaurants and at friends’ homes but I was sorely disappointed. Despite following the book’s instructions to the letter, the food kept coming out bland and lifeless. I couldn’t figure out where I was going wrong, but the more I tried, the more I got frustrated.
Nowadays, when I go though that book (I still have it in my home library here in Warsaw), I can’t help laughing! The recipes are so brief and crude, they might’ve been written in Morse code. There are so many tricks to maximizing flavor that are missing, so many ingredients that would make or break a recipe that are left out. This would explain why the recipes were always a disappointment. But even more important was the lack of heart in those recipes; it was like trying to learn the Samba from R2D2!
But 15-year-old me didn’t know that! All I knew was that I sucked at our traditional cuisine and the only explanation I could think of, at the time, was that I didn’t have enough Syrian DNA.
To be continued…