Dough is my thing. The more I mess with it the more I am enthralled by it. I have painfully neglected my pursuit of chocolate art this last month at least in part because I keep circling back to dough.
But like chocolate, I have a lot of hits and a lot of misses when it comes to dough. That “something,” that fine line between a great dough and a blob, is what keeps me coming back (not to mention the eats afterward– even the blobs taste pretty OK).
In all my kneading I learned something vitally important: All those helpful hints and videos and pins and such don’t do justice to the art of truly creating beautiful food, especially things that require a veteran touch like dough.
I realized this when my dough pursuits wandered off the familiar territory of my Italian heritage and explored working with Hispanic dough’s — tamales and tortillas.
The methods are similar. Dough is dough at “the root of the root” as the poet said. But the finished product proved to me I have a lot to learn. Second and third tries taught me it wasn’t a measurement or a better recipe, but the deft art of know how. I have it working with things my grandmother taught me. I don’t have it — yet — with things I’d have learned if Nonie was my Abuela.
We never made tamales when I was a kid. I lack the expertise, the hands-on experience with a true expert who made them so often she didn’t even realize how exceptional they were. Grandmothers cooked in a different time, long before such things made them celebrities. They made food so we could eat and seeing us enjoy it was all the star-power they needed. Nonie made us sauce and ravioli and apple rings and fried bread, things I make with a confidence that comes from seeing her, watching her and eating her creations.
I didn’t have that training with tamales and tortillas and frankly the results prove it.
Don’t get me wrong. I had fun and the product of my labor still ended up getting consumed.
But the artistry remains elusive, which when you come to think about it, is thrilling! If the art of truly cultural food could be captured in a five-minute YouTube, would it be special?
Remember our favorite sage Jimmy Dugan (“that’s good advice!”) who sums up Effin Artistry when he said: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everybody would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/VCQM1gcEv5E?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>
It is the hard that makes it great. I want to discover the great as if I had an Abuela to teach me.
Back to the masa grind stone.