Cooking like Picasso made me a better cook
No, I’ve never met the genius Spanish painter. He died before I was born. But in 1945 he did something I kinda, and unknowingly, repeated during a long cold winter in the Netherlands.
Picasso drew a bull. I cooked a stew.
Picasso drew 11 bulls. I cooked probably as many stews.
Not bull stew, though.
What Picasso cooked up …
In his famous series of 11 lithographs Picasso goes from a very detailed, realistically drawn bull to a super simple sketch that only outlines the animal. With every new drawing, Picasso simplified his image, focusing only on the elements that made it a bull. The outlines, the shapes of the head, the huge bent neck.
And you still recognize the bull in his final picture, although it was only made of a few lines.
“Learning how to take complex subjects and simplify them down to abstract forms is a major aspect of art. Most people think that art is all about seeing more detail, but it is really about seeing less. Seeing basic patterns amongst the “noise”; seeing basic forms amongst the complex; seeing the few important details which convey the majority of meaning.” as Draw Paint Academy explains here.
He saw the patterns, the elements that made a bull a bull, and used only those in his final version.
… vs what I cooked
Unplanned, I cooked a lot of stews that one winter. For the first few stews, I followed the recipes. Then I started to leave out an ingredient or changed one for another. Just before the days got warmer, I started to improvise more, creating my own dishes without other people’s recipes as my guide.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back (thanks to being a food blogger I had written down all the experiments in the kitchen that exited me!), I saw my progress and how I had learned to understand what a stew is. From following recipes (the rules), to creating my own new stews that no one has made before in that way.
I put Picasso’s quote into practice. I learned the basics, then I knew how to run with them.
You can learn this too!
As this is exactly what we will be doing in my upcoming Taste & Technique virtual cooking course, only it won’t take you a long winter cooking all kinds of stews to understand the basics of a stew. We will focus on cooking techniques, put ingredients in the spotlight and we break down any dish to its bare bones, the main elements of cooking techniques, the indispensable ingredients, so you can learn to how to play with them.
Making stews will be on the program. No bull stews. But after the class you would know how to make them, as you’ll understand the rules and create your own recipes. But first up is a Knife skills class.
How to cook a stew
In short, a stew is a pot slowly cooked meat and/or vegetables, sometimes sauteed first, then simmered (braised) in a little bit of liquid – either added or from the vegetables – until all ingredients are fully cooked. Depending on the ingredient that needs the most time (usually meat) that can take hours. We will discuss all of this when braising is on the program. For now, if you’re on my mailing list, you can download my recipe for one of my favorite chicken stews, inspired by the well known Moroccan chicken tagine (=stew) with olives (see picture above).
Do I see you in the virtual class room? (Read all about it here)