So often when it comes to food our interest is captured by the “new.” Buzzy just-opened restaurants, food trends, the “in” ingredients—these are what dominate the discussion. I’m as guilty as anyone, whipping up original cocktails for the Oscars and exploring “modernist” cooking.
But a couple of recent articles have gotten me thinking about the need to pay attention to the classics. First there was Derek Brown’s essay for Table Matters encouraging bartenders to spend less time making up cocktails and more time perfecting the classics. Then there was Dan Myers’ piece for The Daily Meal on 11 once popular dishes that are disappearing from restaurant menus. These stories highlight that dishes and drinks may fade because tastes change, but it can also happen from lack of attention.
It got me thinking about the value of paying attention to these older recipes. Just as studying history in school is essential for understanding how we’ve become who we are, I decided that spending some time with the classics might inform the cooking I want to be doing now. Learning a few classic drinks might help me invent better new ones, while possibly learning to appreciate drinks from bygone eras. And exploring a few classic dishes might give me insights into whether a few fading ones are worth keeping around and possibly rethinking. Who knows…I just might learn something along the way.
All this month I intend to explore a number of classic recipes in different ways. Some need no retooling, like Jacques Pepin’s perfect beef stew. Others, like a couple dishes highlighted in Myers’ piece, might not be forgotten if they were updated for modern tastes or, alternatively, refreshed by taking them back to their simpler roots. I won’t be doing the classics exclusively—I’m committed to continuing the series of new Dallas Drinks for the current season and have a week of all bacon-themed dishes coming up—but it will be a recurrent theme for the next 4 weeks.