|Ethiopian style congee.|
In a recent survey by Zagat (now a property of Google) revealed that Houstonians dine out more often than any other city in the US. Some seem to think that this is something to be bragged about.
Why is that?
If there's anything I've observed about local dining out habits is that these diners tend to go to the same narrow range of restaurants, all of whom tend to offer very similar dishes. Moreover, people tend to order the exact same dish with every visit. I believe the latter part is true of most American restaurant patrons. These habitual systems fuel the burgeoning monotony of the dining scene in Houston. Our diversity stems from the number of different ways one can put toppings on a hamburger, or the minutiae of smoking brisket. And at the end of the day, familiarity often trumps flavor at the checkout receipt.
But the necessary consequence here is that Houstonians tend to cook less often at home. And this should be recognized as a sad matter. There's a true and essential skill to cooking - it's the art of finding flavor amidst compromise, a balance of knowing enough of the science of chemistry and microbiology to apply heat and time to raw ingredients, to bring forth a transformation worthy of one's palate, discriminating or otherwise. And above all, it's about taking responsibility for the outcome, something that Texans, and all Americans, for that matter, are supposed to take pride in.
And even the humblest of cooks are better equipped to appreciate the vision and efforts of a fellow cook by their very exposure to the craft.