But Hesser’s approach to cooking has shifted towards the familiar in recent years after noticing the downside to always pushing the boundaries:
Meanwhile, I continued to roam and experiment, rarely making the same dish twice. I enjoy the hunt for a new great recipe, the push for something better. But it comes at a cost; cooking new things is more stressful because the unknowns are many. Tad would chat with the kids while making his pasta; I would cook distracted, with my nose in a recipe. Even after focused cooking, things don’t always work out well, and no one around the table is happy. And it’s hard to expect anyone to build an emotional connection to a dish if they’re only seeing it a few times.
I am really feeling that tension between novelty and stability lately, and not just when it comes to food. Sometimes I feel like I’m two different people. The Explorer craves new experiences, finds routine boring, and wants to learn new things or he’ll feel brain-dead. The Hermit needs the stability of a comfortable routine, finds exploring exhausting, and doesn’t want to have to think about what’s next all the time.
Like Jason Kottke, I tend toward a few favourite recipes, not straying too far from the unknown. But I don’t really follow a recipe for these well-known dishes (or for most of my cooking)—instead, I follow a familiar outline, varying the contents based on what I have at hand that day. In this way, the ordinary (the land of Kottke’s Hermit) offers space for experimentation (the land of Kottke’s Explorer). This structure extends beyond my kitchen: whether well-worn walking paths, favourite music, or heavily annotated books, I tend to seek depth in the familiar.