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As you have become more (*ahem*) mature, has your cooking gotten more complex...or simpler?.

I went through my complicating years, classic French, Asian, sauces on everything. Now it's all about the ingredients, simple preparation to bring out the flavor. You?

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  1. My cooking has developed into something with more layers of flavor or depth, and the freshest, local things I can find in my area. However, the hubster feels that he really "can't handle a lot of things" on the menu, so I am compelled to serve plain, bland for him (read not adventurous!) and cook whatever I want for myself.

    1. I've only been cooking for myself for a few years (I'm in my 20s) but I know what I like and I have always gravitated towards simple wholesome meals where quality ingredients can really shine!

      1. I would say both. I am more likely experiment more, wing it more and try new things whether it be ingredients, a way of cooking or a particular cuisine.

        But I have become really streamlined in my everyday, just home from work type cooking. I am better with getting the most flavor and depth from simple ingredients. When I was first married I felt compelled to plan whole menus and was less likely to substitute when I couldn't find exactly what I wanted

        I am more likely to build a meal around what looks/is good/local/fresh at the market but can easily put together a delicious meal with just what I have around the house.

        I still read cook books voraciously but rarely use them except when planning more involved, special occasion meals. I find instead they are the basis of my inspiration.

        2 Replies
        1. re: foodieX2

          This sums me up pretty well too!

          1. re: meatn3

            Me three! It really depends on the season. Because in the middle of winter, I will throw everything I've got into a pork and tomatillo stew - nuoc mam, lime juice, cumin, two kinds of chili powder. I'll make a layer pan sauce for a pork loin that's been marinated in port and soy sauce. But in summer, give me a fresh from the garden tomato with a sprinkling of sea salt. For my new discovery - the cherimoya - where I would just cut it in half and eat it with a spoon.

        2. More complex and simpler, both. Some days I'll spend hours in the kitchen with elaborate new menus, and other times dinner is a plain/simple omelette.

          Also, since retiring, we eat dinner earlier (which we swore we'd *never* do!) and generally have lighter appetites. I've become the queen of halving recipes!

          1. Hmm... I haven't been cooking regularly for very long. I really had to start last May when I moved in with my SO and part of my "duties" here include cooking. So, I have to turn out a decent dinner every night when he's home, and those usually are pretty simple, cook in under an hour, and have flavors that I know will turn out and that he will like. He travels during the week pretty much every week now, so I've been finding myself doing more experimenting and cooking more exciting things... because if it doesn't turn out it's just me who has to eat it! Before I came here, I had been living temporarily with my folks, and they don't have complex palates and can't do anything with any sort of heat, so when it was my turn to cook, I stuck to the simple flavors too.

            But before that, my cooking was limited to maybe one meal a week, usually Sundays, and I made some pretty complicated stuff, usually of the french variety, using expensive high quality ingredients. I worked an insane job that was usually 12-14 hours during a week along with many Saturdays and Sunday was the only day I would take off completely and I liked to spend it cooking.

            1. When I started cooking 45 years ago, I stuck to cookbooks and simple roasting, and developed my menus according to my strict budget. When the kids were growing up I still used recipes and baked a lot, experimented a lot with the gourmet side of cooking and bread and pie baking, but now that there's just the two of us I rarely use cookbooks anymore (although I have two long shelves), I bake a lot less, and stick more to fresh and simple, well seasoned foods. My DH doesn't care much for Asian stir fries, so I stopped making those.

              1. I have to say that my cooking has pretty much remained the same throughout. Coming from parents who both loved to cook & made some pretty complex dishes - even way back when complex food at home wasn't the norm - I've always been willing to try cooking something new if the flavors intrigued me.

                I will say that one area where I've probably gone "simpler" is in the baking/desserts category. For one thing, sweets have never been my thing; for another, I'm simply not all that interested in making a Crocembouche & such anymore. It's normally just my husband & I these days, & neither one of us go in much for fancy desserts, so that side of my cooking has pretty much gone by the wayside as far as any real "complexity".

                1. A wonderful question because it provokes a fun trip down memory lane. . . ah, those early years of learning to cook with Julia at my side, encouraging me to concoct elaborate French meals (especially when entertaining.) Then the years with children while I worked outside the home, when Get It On The Table Quickly was the first priority. But today, like some of the other respondents, I am both experimenting more with ethnic ingredients and techniques (thank you, Cook Book of the Month threads!) and cooking simpler and smarter (thank you, my CSA boxes!)

                  1. I am not as willing to experiment as when I had people living here to feed and use as guinea pigs:) I recently transitioned over to a mainly plant based diet on January 2nd.I have continued to consume 1/2 & 1/2 for coffee....cheeses to shred on pasta and the occasional egg on toast with butter.I decided to try to learn how to cook some vegetable curries.They look so delicious.My first one will be a beet and carrot curry. I have to shop for ingredients this week.Wish me luck:)

                    1. "As you have become more (*ahem*) mature, has your cooking gotten more complex...or simpler?".

                      Simpler. A vine ripe tomato (sandwich) from my garden, fresh bread, and Duke's mayonnaise. There's nothing better. ~ Fresh eggs from the hen house any style is exciting as well as delicious. A good mess of fresh bluegill bream fried up on the patio is as tasty as it gets. ~~~~ Definitely simpler.

                        1. Simpler, but when I say that I don't mean easier. I just mean more thoughtful about what goes in, making sure there are not extraneous seasonings that mask the taste of the food. I think one sign of an "immature" cook is seasoning without having thought it through, or without having tried alternatives. Putting garlic in everything, for example, when sometimes the dish would be better without it. I put the word "immature" in quotes because I don't think this has to do with age so much as experience, and with taking the time to actually think about your cooking and why you do certain things.

                          1. Simpler. My days of "Julia and Jay" are long since gone. Glad I had them, but I eat much more simply now, and cook accordingly.

                            Of course, it occurs to me that I know how to do more things now without looking in a book, so maybe they just *seem* simpler.

                            1. Simpler but with a far wider range of techniques and ingredients. Much less constricted by tradition. For example I love a little garam masala in scampi with white wine.

                              The biggest change I note is that cooking, much like golf, is much more mental than is obvious. Using nuanced techniques and ingredients because you have practiced and incorporated the thought processes in the way you work is so much nicer than plowing through a dish and regretting you forgot a seemingly inconsequential part.

                              1. I used to imagine that I was a very good cook, because my friends said they liked my meals, and asked how i did it.

                                Thank goodness that with (*ahem*) maturity I have realized that I am just a pretty fair country cook, that I will never be a chef, and that's really OK. It's fun, people still think it tastes good, and I'm no longer competitive.

                                The biggest change is my frugality since I have been on a fixed income. You can make really tasty meals with cheap, simple ingredients.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                                  Your point resonates with me: when I was young and foolish, I tried hard to impress guests with my high-falutin' menu or ingredients.

                                  Now I call myself a Peasant Cook, proudly, 'cause I can pull together good tasting food from mundane, every-day ingredients.

                                  1. re: pine time

                                    Hear! Hear! I used to think I needed specific things (chicken or beef, celery, onion, carrots) to make stock. Now vegetable trimmings all go in a freezer bag. Today I roasted a total hodge podge of vegetable trimmings to make stock. Different from classic meat based stocks, totally unpredictable, but tasty. Woody end of asparagus, bottom of a bunch of celery, onions trimmings, ends of a few mushrooms, green bean ends (not the nice tender little French ones), tomato navels, ends of carrots, questionable parts of a potato, and a few marginal lettuce leaves.

                                    1. re: tim irvine

                                      I've learned a new term: tomato navels. Brilliant.

                                2. I think I started to cook about 50 years ago as a child at my grandmother's apron string....So I have to believe that I have learned much since then....Most of the children are gone (one still in college) so there is a void of a certain need to put a meal on the table that addresses everyones' taste and fits or does not fit into their schedules.

                                  As a result the cooking has become a bit lighter, we tend to eat a bit later, and much more varried. More complex preparations, I don't think so....much more vegetables that are prepared very simple, with a myriad of ethnic spices, that I would not consider using 25 years ago.

                                  I don't bake as much and deserts if we have any, and are now pretty much regulated to fresh fruit.

                                  I will say that on holiday gatherings, I make much more complex sauces, gravies, appetiezers and main courses then before...and never have less than 5 or 6 items avaliable to all for the main course.

                                  1. Simpler.

                                    I feel I'm much more in tune with locally grown, seasonal ingredients and cooking them in the straightforward ways that reflect traditional dishes.

                                    Fusion and similar fads? Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, wore it, sent it to the charity shop.

                                    1. Both... my skills have improved without the need to put something on the table for a child and us each day, and with the time and freedom to experiment more.

                                      As I've gotten more concerned about the provenance and quality of foods we eat the past several years, we've eaten out less and less and as my skills and repertoire have improved, it's been no sacrifice.

                                      1. Ha -- every time I click on any Chowhound thread it gets *way* more complicated!

                                        But actually, desserts definitely are more complex, meat too,
                                        but vegetables & fruit I like simpler now.

                                        1. My cooking keeps expanding to cover different types of food - after a few years living in East Asia, for example, my repertoire of Chinese, Japanese and Korean foods has expanded, and I was inspired last year by a trip to Italy.

                                          There have been two main differences as I've gotten older, though.

                                          The first is access to better resources. As a student, I had not much money, not much time, and moved too frequently to build up a good selection of spices, staples and cooking equipment. Plus, I shared a fridge with anywhere from two to six other people, which has its own limitations. Now, I have a very small kitchen, but I have the money to buy good ingredients, convenient access to a local traditional market (with good produce, seafood and meat), and the time to acquire the accoutrements of cooking. Plus a schedule that's more regular - no more working until midnight on my thesis.

                                          The second was getting married. Cooking for two people is a totally different experience than cooking for one, particularly when one half of the couple can eat the way my husband does. So I cook half as often, but make more elaborate meals - main dish, starch, two vegetables, rather than a one pot meal with lots of leftovers and a salad on the side.

                                          Flavour wise, I think I've come to appreciate difficult flavours and textures (by Western standards) more as I mature - bitter melon, stinky tofu, durian, natto, traditional Chinese medicinal soups, tororo, raw egg, slimy okra, chewy chicken gizzards, etc.

                                          1. Far more self indulgent, and sometimes complex.

                                            Bull pizzle soup, whelk gumbo, steak and kidney pie, etc.

                                            Am currently testing recipes from Stove Pilot, 1961, from Maxwell AFB. Canned soup is your friend.

                                            Haven't found any cow pizzle at the market yet, but it gives me another reason to search the corners of the display cases.

                                            1. I am in transition.

                                              I came to love cooking relatively late in life. My 20's and 30's were much more slanted toward partying than toward food. I developed an interest in cooking both for myself (I live alone) and for my friends and spent a lot of time and money on both. I enjoyed quite a reputation among my group as the go-to resource for food questions and was known for always coming up with something "different".

                                              I now find myself recently and somewhat unexpectedly retired (one-time buyout incentive for long time employees too good to pass up at my age) and have not quite adjusted to a life of plenty of time and not much money after a lifetime of the opposite. I think it will be OK once I adjust to the idea that, while I can no longer spend extravagently on speciality ingredients, I now will have the time for some of the labor-intensive recipes I have always longed to try (#1 on my list being demi-glace). I'll also have time to visit the ethnic and speciality groceries spread out all over town but will have to remember that I no longer have the means to spend heedlessly on their offerings.

                                              Sorry to sound confused but I am.

                                              1. When my husband died 4 years ago, I lost interest in cooking, relying heavily on TV dinners. But now I am in a relationship with someone who is also interested in cooking so I think things will change.

                                                1. i guess my (*ahem*) maturity has made me more confident. years ago i never would have thought i could actually make dumpling wrappers from scratch. i don't know if that's more complex or adventurous or what you'd call it. but i try things now that i would have never tried before. rolling pasta, potato gallete, pastry......child's play for some, i know, but for me, it's sort of a big deal....or were intimidating for a long time.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: eLizard

                                                    I will always say that to me the procurement of ingredients and then the preparation serving etc. is an art form. I always felt it was a form of self expression and to some extent a gift of love.Very personal and intimate to prepare good food for others.It is art to me.So detailed and precise and presenting it so it looks too beautiful to eat:) Food is love.Food is art:)

                                                  2. Like many of the replies, I am both. I retired 9 years ago, am now 59, and have evolved. During my career the repertoire was largely processed, prepared and/or chain restaurant meals. Now (and in the meantime I've moved back to the midwest), I do virtually no chain or fast food and prepare most everything at home from scratch from the best value ingredients I can find/afford. I also do a lot of really inexpensive and really yummy foods that need long, slow coaxing of flavors. I do very little supermarket shopping, but go to the bakery, fish store, butcher, italian market, veggie/fruit market, veggie stands in summer, etc. Processed foods - well, I use many obviously, I am still an American, lol - are mayo & condiments, canned tomatos & beans, cereal, peanut butter, etc. Otherwise, I prefer to do my own processing from whole ingredients. I realize many people find this very annoying, which I understand - 10 years ago I did too! But now I have the time, information, and motivation to eat differently. So that's what's happened, since I've, ahem, "matured".

                                                    1. I just go where my imagination leads me, be it the best version of a traditional comfort food, or something new and exciting.

                                                      1. i am going toward much higher quality ingredients, much simpler preparation, and much for respect for the individual flavors and textures of each ingredient.

                                                        away from ten step recipies that, in the end, have flavors that are dominated by the form of tat that they contain (i.e. fish that ends up tasting like butter, chpped chicken liver that tastes more like schmaltz than like chicken liver.)

                                                        1. I have a better understanding of flavors now.