French is, without question, the most difficult European cuisine to get right in the home.
Or so I thought.
You see, my culinary invasion of Europe has been quite methodical. It was a project I set myself.
It started in England with amazing, seasonal, super-local foods, then to Italy, then to Greece over the summer, then I went Levantine in the autumn before deciding to tackle French in any serious way.
Most traditional food is freeform. And that is certainly the case with the countries I played with before I got around to les Français. You can add more paprika here, a few less olives there, find some seasonal replacements for key ingredients, etc. You get to fiddle with them.
If you fiddle with French you’re fucked from the start.
There are myriad regional cuisines but on a national level it is basically an entire country of maybe fifteen dishes. Five hundred years and they have boiled it down to fifteen dishes.
French cooking has rules. They have been doing it a lot longer than you and they frankly aren’t interested in your opinion. If you add garlic where they don’t add garlic then you just haven’t made French food… And the results will speak for themselves. Go for your life, of course. You can call it ‘French-inspired’ or ‘Franglais’ but it is impossible that you will improve on the original dish. Know that from the outset. It’s stripped down to its perfect core already.
This, then, is the secret of French cooking: Do as you are told.
Just follow their unbelievably simple rules. It might look complex, it might be difficult to pronounce, you might think you can’t do it but you can.
So my opinion of French cookery has changed. It’s not for advanced home cooks. It’s for rank beginners. If you can follow instructions you can make la bonne cuisine.
Here is where it lines up with meditation, then. It’s simple but it works. Centuries of practice by people far more talented than us have captured something that cannot be improved upon.
You don’t need to light a special candle, or add an invocation, or picture some god or another in your head to meditate. It doesn’t need it. All of these things are well and good but they aren’t meditation. This has been my most recent Jason-borne (get it?) revelation:
Meditation is simple but it’s perfect. Just follow the instructions. And those instructions are:
For a minimum of twenty minutes.
(Although some ovens may vary.)