Rustic or Refined?

As I was cutting up onion, peppers, mushrooms, and tossing them in a pan with some browning ground turkey this morning I was musing about the idea of rustic food. I cut my vegetables carefully and feel very strongly about cutting things to to appropriate size for the dish and paying attention to how flavors meld together (not that I always get that part right, but it is important to get a good dish). I have been known to gripe for a very long time about restaurants with poor knife skills, and usually will avoid returning altogether. This idea of rustic or refined foods is one I struggle with however. I don’t like to waste food and in (what I will refer to as) refined foods there is much more waste than in rustic cooking.

Rustic cooking is popular with those that want to utilize snout to tail methods of preservation and cooking. Preservation in general is part of the idea; pickles, jams, and smoking and curing meats to save foods at the height of their freshness for parts of the year when they are not available. But when using these age old methods and using a whole pepper vs. brunoising (imagine cutting two quarts of carrots in 1/16″ by 1/16″ pieces) it and throwing away nearly half of the pepper, (ok so I would compost it, but you get the idea) it makes my blood boil.

Then there’s the plating issue. In refined cooking there is elegance, everything is just so on the plate, with sauce, and garnish, small portions and lots of space left on the plate, or so is the vision I have. Rustic is things that taste delicious, but don’t necessarily look picture perfect, like your mom made it (think lasagna, not S.O.S though). That’s the musing I’m having this morning, because I think rustic can involve the more elegant plating, but with the simplicity that is rustic food.

So I’m going to enjoy my bowl of sautéed vegetables and ground turkey for breakfast and if I was serving it in a restaurant, I’d serve it with tortillas and salad on a cute plate with a bowl and I’m pretty sure customers would enjoy the farm fresh vegetables and homemade vinegar and habanero sauce that’s added mixed in even if it doesn’t look like the prettiest dish you ever saw.


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