Cookery, preparation of food for consumption. The oldest and most essential of the arts and crafts, cookery involves a variety of primary techniques that include the application of dry heat, immersion in or contact with heated liquids or fats, curing, smoking, and pickling. Secondary cookery techniques range from the simplest kitchen chores to the elaborate decoration of ceremonial pastries. See also Food Processing and Preservation.Cookery must be divided into two classes, perhaps best defined by the French, who distinguish between cuisine bourgeois (“home cooking”) and haute cuisine—cookery conceived as an aesthetic pursuit. In theory, the distinction is based on the differences between practical cooking skills and refined artistry. In practice, however, the distinction has always been somewhat vague and has become increasingly so in recent years, as home cooks—better informed, equipped, and supplied than in the past—emulate the work of professional chefs.
|II||ORIGINS OF COOKERY|
Cookery originated sometime between the onset of fire making and the beginning, eons later, of the Neolithic period, also known as the Stone Age. Until they learned to make and control fire, early humans ate their food raw, subsisting mostly on wild fruits, nuts, insects, fish, and game. Before the development of pottery vessels some 7,000 to 12,000 years ago, food was cooked by roasting it over or toasting it beside open fires, or by wrapping it in leaves or husks, to be pit-steamed over embers. The development of pottery made possible such relatively sophisticated cooking methods as boiling, stewing, braising, frying, and, perhaps, a primitive form of baking. These techniques, in combination with the domestication of animals for their meat and milk and the cultivation of edible plants, opened the way to what ultimately became modern cookery.
|III||COOKERY IN ANTIQUITY|
By the time of the earliest settled communities, cookery had become more than merely a means of survival; people had begun to concern themselves with flavor and quality, rather than simply quantity. By the standards of the great 19th-century French gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (who declared, “Beasts feed; man eats; only the man of intellect knows how to eat”), the craft of cookery was evolving into an art. The peoples of the Indus Valley, for example, are known to have ground spices, and their Chinese contemporaries preferred tender young pigs to meatier but tougher older animals. By early Babylonian times the succulent fungi called truffles were being rooted from the ground for the delectation of those who could afford them, and the tough meat of old oxen was deemed fit only for dog food. Forty kinds of breads and pastries were available to upper-class Egyptians by the 12th century bc. Nine hundred years later the Athenians had already stolen a march on frugal modern restaurateurs by inventing the hors d’oeuvre trolley, which, according to one 3rd-century BC complaint, “seems to offer variety but is nothing at all to satisfy the belly.”Throughout much of its history, indeed, cookery of classical Greece was far more concerned with the belly than the palate. As a result of disastrously poor soil conservation, olives and grapes grew in abundance, but meat was scarce, and domestically grown staple grains almost nonexistent. Except during the later period of Athenian greatness, rich and poor alike subsisted largely on a monotonous diet of imported grain eaten for the most part in the form of oil-bound pastes. Meat rarely was eaten, except during ritual feasts, when it was prepared as simply as a steak at a modern backyard barbecue. With the emergence of Athens as the preeminent city of classical antiquity, however, Greek cookery for the wealthy, prepared by slaves, took on pretensions to what would eventually be called haute cuisine. See also Ancient Greece.It remained for the Romans to elevate cookery to the status of high art and to make elaborate dining a major preoccupation of civilized life. Unlike the slave cooks of Greece, the hired chefs of imperial Rome commanded salaries that the Roman historian Livy termed “prohibitive,” and their employers literally spent fortunes on single meals. No foodstuff was too costly or too esoteric for the upper-class Roman table, and the known world was scoured for such exotic items as flamingo tongues, peacock brains, oysters from Britain, hams from Gaul, and ostriches from North Africa. To satisfy this gastronomic lust a sophisticated culinary technology was developed, and even in the restricted space of town houses kitchens were furnished with large grills, vast preparation tables, and complex masonry cookstoves; these stoves contained a number of separate ovens, each with its specific function. See also Ancient Rome.Although the 19th-century French master chef Marie Antoine Carême denounced it as “essentially barbaric,” classical Roman cookery might easily have evolved into something much like Carême’s cuisine had not the Roman Empire broken up. With the barbarian sweep across Europe in the 5th century ad, the progress of Western cookery came to a virtual standstill and was not revitalized until the Renaissance.
|IV||THE GREAT CUISINES|
By general consent the three major styles of modern cookery are the Chinese, Italian, and French. Of these, the oldest, purest, and perhaps most sophisticated is the Chinese, which is built on concepts defined by Confucius. The character of Chinese cookery has been shaped by the character of China itself. In a land chronically overpopulated and fuel-poor, a people concerned with good eating had to use ingredients and develop techniques unknown or ignored elsewhere. In essence, Chinese cookery is quick cookery. To prepare meals using small quantities of flimsy, fast-burning fuel, the Chinese developed the wok, a round-bottomed utensil that circulates heat quickly and evenly while enabling its user to keep its contents in constant motion. With the wok, and using ingredients hacked into small, thin morsels, the Chinese cook exposes the maximum amount of food surface to heat in the shortest possible time, often simultaneously preparing a sauce in the same wok. Chinese cookery is typified by lightness, freshness, variety, and the calculated interplay of contrasting textures, flavors, colors, and aromas. Its influence is evident to varying degrees in the cookery of Japan and in areas from Hawaii to the western end of the Malay Archipelago.Italian cookery, too, was shaped to a considerable degree by fuel shortages, in this case the result of early deforestation. In northern Europe in the Middle Ages, large roasts were cooked on spits, and stews, soups, and sauces were prepared in cauldrons. Although not unknown in Italy, these slower methods have not played conspicuous roles in a land where beef is relatively scarce but fish are plentiful and where pale meats, in any case, are preferred to red. Like the Chinese, Italian cookery is essentially quick cookery, with thin cuts of meat exposed to heat for periods of short duration, and with such relatively bland grains as pasta (wheat), polenta (corn), and risotto (rice) dependent on sauces and garnishes for interest. Based primarily on that of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Saracens, Italian cookery was refined to a high degree by the early Renaissance, when it produced the first truly modern European cuisine.Although today it sets the standard for all other Western cuisines, French cookery was heavy, monotonous, and overspiced until the arrival in France (1533) of the Italian-born queen Catherine de Médicis; with her came a small army of Florentine cooks, bakers, and confectioners, an assortment of advanced kitchen gear, and a variety of delicacies then unknown to the French. In the following century François Pierre de La Varenne, a great chef trained in the French court, wrought a culinary revolution by developing the first true French sauces. La Varenne was followed by a long line of French master chefs, who in their times revolutionized cooking procedures: Marie Antoine Carême, the founder of la cuisine classique; Auguste Escoffier, who modernized, codifed, and publicized French cookery; and, in the present era, a band of young innovators who have based their nouvelle cuisine in large part on Oriental traditions 2,000 or more years old, developing a new cooking style characterized by lightness, purity, and simple, undisguised flavors.
|V||FOOD IN THE NEW WORLD|
In the western hemisphere cookery has evolved largely according to the ethnic background of the settlers, as modified by their immediate requirements and the available produce in the regions they settled. Thus, in Canada, native foodstuffs have been adapted to a need, in a harsh climate, for high caloric intake and are cooked according to French and English tastes. In the United States food has been and still is cooked according to the styles of successive waves of immigrants—with English, German, Dutch, Creole, and African influences predominant until recently when Cuban, Indian, Mediterranean, Thai, and Vietnamese influences arrived. The centuries-old presence of Mexican cuisine in the Southwest of the United States extended its influence throughout the United States during the late 20th century. In Latin America, native cookery has been influenced, in varying degrees, by the methods of Spain, Portugal, and Africa.
Heat-activated cooking methods take five basic forms. Food may be immersed in liquids such as water, stock, or wine (boiling, poaching, stewing); immersed in fat or oil (frying); exposed to vapor (steaming and, to some extent, braising); exposed to dry heat (roasting, baking, broiling); and subjected to contact with hot fats (sautéing). With minor modifications, all five methods are applicable to any type of food not eaten raw, but certain treatments traditionally are rarely used to prepare particular foods. Deep-fat frying, for example, is not generally thought the ideal method for preparing steaks or chops.Boiled foods usually are immersed in flavored or unflavored liquids for longer periods of time than poached foods, and the cooking liquid usually takes the form of a thickened sauce when foods are stewed. The chief difference between frying and sautéing (Chinese wok cookery is an example of the latter) is that frying produces a crisp surface, sealing natural moisture inside the food, whereas in the sauté process, natural juices usually mingle with the pan fat, coating the food with a light sauce. As opposed to steaming, which does not place foods in direct contact with liquids, braising is accomplished by first browning food in fat and then placing it in direct contact with a small amount of liquid within an airtight pan. Originally, roasted foods were exposed to the action of open fires or live coals, but in contemporary cookery roasting is synonymous with baking—that is, cooking by dry heat in a closed oven. Broiling, whether in an oven or over an open fire or coals, exposes meats to the direct action of more intense heat, which sears their surfaces quickly to seal in their juices.
Essential modern kitchen equipment includes the following: a stove, or range; sink; work surface; various knives, pots and pans; such utensils as spatulas, whisks, specialized spoons, and rolling pins; and a more highly specialized array of gear for producing pastries and other baked goods. In recent years such sophisticated equipment as blenders, food processors, and microwave ovens have become common. Although such tools do save considerable preparation and cooking time, none of them has improved on the results to be achieved by more traditional techniques.
The literature of cookery (as opposed to the older literature of gastronomy) dates from Confucian times in the East, and from the 1st century AD in the West, when the first known cookbook was written, perhaps by the Roman voluptuary Marcus Gavius Apicius (14-37). The earliest surviving cookbook in English is The Forme of Cury (Forms of Cookery, c. 1390). With the invention of printing, cookbooks began to proliferate. The ever-increasing number of works on cookery includes the landmark works of Carême and Escoffier, as well as—in the United States today—such frequently revised classic cookbooks as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking, and the books, television programs, and newspaper columns of such widely respected experts as Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and James Beard. Television continues to provide a launching pad for cookbook authors. The popularity of the Food Network, a cable TV channel, introduced chef Emeril Lagasse to a wide audience. The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, authored by Alice Waters, the chef and owner of the highly regarded Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, earned fame mainly by word-of-mouth, however. (karaengisla – microsoft ® Encarta ® 2008.)