At Right Reason, Chris Tollefsen asserts that all good cooks are conservative. Now, I'm no expert on cooking, or on the strange casserole of hardened traditionalism, religious dogma, and leftover prejudice that seems to constitute philosophical conservatism. But it seems to me (and he might agree) that Millian "experiments in cooking" are essential to the improvement of the art. Any who disagree are welcome to sample Dennis Clark's champagne vinegar and chili oil mayonnaise -- a substance so delicious that I originally refused to consider it mayonnaise. Dennis then explained to me that mayonnaise is not defined by its immediately sensible properties, but by its hidden essence as an emulsion. But I'll put aside questions of artificial kind semantics for another day.
Should I someday learn to cook very well (or marry a far better cook than myself), perhaps I'll play some role in the writing of a utilitarian cookbook. Think of all the desiderata that utilitarians use to evaluate a meal -- yumminess, appearance, fun-ness to eat, health, price, ease of preparation, ease of acquiring ingredients, and kindness to animals. The cookbook would contain recipes that maximized utility, keeping all these features in mind.
I should say here that the core of Tollefsen's claim about conservatism in cooking does not seem wrong to me. That cooks defer in some degree to tradition and authority seems plausible. But this is something that culinary utilitarians can easily swallow. Nobody argues that the art of navigation is not founded on astronomy, because sailors cannot wait to calculate the Nautical Almanack.1 And none should argue that the art of cooking is not founded on utility, just because cooks use recipes that have proven themselves over time.
[Update]: Having just bought my first carton of soy milk, let me say that it's wonderful as an oatmeal solvent.
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