Evolution of YOUR cooking style
As I look through old recipes sometimes I wonder why I ever thought they were worth making. Guess not only have my skills improved but also my tastes have changed, as well as the general tastes of those around me. Maybe my patience level has changed too?
I am definitely more improvisational and less rigid when it comes to cooking. My tastes range from comfort food to light and fresh.
How have things changed with your cooking over the years?
I would say that my cooking skills and my judgement about what will work has improved more than evolved.
In the mid-eighties I made a Paul Prudhomme recipe twice -- the first time I prepped my ingredients in advance and the second time I didn't. The first execution was fantastic, mind-blowing. The second time was a failure because I didn't have my vegetables chopped in time to cool down the pan after browning a roux. It became very clear to me how important mise en place is.
In the mid nineties I went to Chez Panisse and had a huge light bulb moment: quality of ingredients matters more than anything. The flavors of exquisitely perfect fish and vegetables shone through the dish. My cooking definitely improved after that one meal. Previously I had been focused on the combination of flavors -- the ingredient list. Since then I've spent a lot more money on buying premium ingredients.
Starting in the early 2000s I began focusing on methods of cooking things precisely, like sous vide.
My next venture will be smoking foods.
Interesting question. My cooking has certainly evolved, but so has the food that is available to cook. The quality and variety food that I can get at farmers markets, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and even the local supermarket is so superior to what is was when I started cooking, and just keeps getting better. In addition, the quantity of junk in foods... HFCS, GMO corn, soy, etc has also increased. My eating has evolved as I have made a choice to eat "real" food... So more things are made from scratch (no cream of mushroom soup shortcuts). I also tend to cook/eat things that are more simple, but I'm not sure how much is because I have better ingredients and how much is because I have more confidence in what I'm doing.
Having the Internet and a big shelf of cookbooks has also influenced how I cook. When I go to make something new, I tend to look at 10 recipes on how to make it, and will pick and choose and combine depending on what looks best, and what I have available in the pantry.