I am a bad cook. When I actually spend the time to prepare food, I can perform credibly well. I can follow a recipe as well as any other literate human, and I have a novice-level understanding of basic technique and temperature management.
But all things considered, I would rather eat than cook.
I was raised in a family that largely felt the same way — working parents both, neither inclined to spend much time or energy experimenting or refining their cooking for a family of six. Lots of efficient midwestern stews, chops, spaghetti and meatballs. Boiled vegetables on the side. Sometimes “army soup,” which was everything in the freezer thrown into a giant stock pot. There were special occasions, such as when my mother invested half her sanity in beef Wellington on behalf of my father’s fiftieth birthday. But those were exceptions.
Working at Serious Eats, everyone is better at cooking than I am, and they all know way more about food — which is okay! In fact it’s liberating. I can comfortably absent myself from discussions on how best to mix a pie crust or sear a salmon. I would never presume to bring my minimal expertise to the table, so to speak. I mean, I’m the guy who once attempted to make lasagna from scratch using breakfast sausage rather than Italian (the idea of “breakfast lasagna” did not catch on).
There is one recipe I would pass on, if I can, because it’s the one recipe passed on to me.
Though my family is from Ohio, we moved to New Orleans for a time, and that’s where I was born. We moved away when I was three years old, but I’ve always felt (or fancied I felt) a connection to the city. And while there, my mother picked up a very simple recipe for Creole red beans and rice, and I vividly remember gorging myself on it anytime I could.
The recipe: half a pound each of sausage, spicy sausage, and diced ham; cup each of chopped onion and chopped celery; pound of red beans; garlic, salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste. Saute the meat together; then saute the celery and onions in with the meat for a few moments; then dump it all into a giant pot with the beans and everything else. Simmer for two to three hours, or to your preferred level of bean-melting goodness. Serve over a giant mound of white rice with hot buttered garlic bread.
Hard to get more basic than that, and yet I still managed to screw it up once (leaving the pot on a faulty burner which went out after ten minutes, creating a tepid mess when I checked back in three hours). No doubt there are many ways to improve the recipe. But this is about sentiment and ancestral/cultural communication as much as culinary quality. My mother’s red beans and rice speaks to me of my fantasy New Orleans, my mother, my family, growing up, and learning to eat. It would be wonderful if my children grew up to cook well, but I’ll be happy enough if they love to eat well. Hasn’t been a problem so far, and once I improve their tolerance for spice with a little bite, I’ll be serving them my mother’s red beans and rice.
That’s my humble offering for my own personal Future of Food, but my colleagues at Serious Eats no doubt have much better ideas to offer, and no doubt more capably expressed. They’ve already passed on thousands of recipes to the world at large, and here they’ll pick the one they’d really want to pass down to the next generation (however they come or whoever they are). Some of them will respond here, and we’d love to read similar responses from anyone else who cares to share the one recipe they’ll pass down.
What is the one recipe you will pass down? Respond below.
This fall, Medium is exploring the future of food and what it means for us all. To get the latest and build on the conversation, you can follow Future of Food.