Styles of cooking vary with culture and our personal experience of what has given us the pleasures of discovery and delight.
Nowadays with cultures smashing together in the suddenly interconnecting global world we increasingly have access to ingredients from remote corners of the world and through TV and the Internet to ways of cooking our mothers and grandmothers never dreamed possible.
I took two hours today to prepare lunch. I could have gone out and ate at the handful of places where I know the food and service well but cooking at home offers two advantages: I tend to eat less and more healthily and I can exercise creativity when I cook at home. I may not always avail myself of this extravagance. I have other more pressing obligations to fulfill but somehow today I felt I deserved the indulgence.
I prepared a Romaine-lettuce salad with a simple dressing of olive oil and white balsamic vinegar then cooked two hot dishes. I quickly sautéed in olive oil just enough to coat the Cuisinart pan (somehow this thick-walled pan works best for quickly searing meats and vegetables and is my favorite cooking utensil) chopped garlic, chopped shallots and diced dry salami. When the shallots and garlic are nicely golden I added diced celery. When these were coated with oil I threw in equally sized chunks of chicken breast and bay scallops, cooking these over medium high heat until opaque. I used sprinkled Spanish pimienton, crushed Chinese red peppers, and a little salt. I set these aside and in the same pan added a little more olive oil and quickly brown kalkag, the sun-dried, baby shrimps of the Philippines then added chili salsa before throwing in day-old Botan rice. I carefully turned the rice over gently until well heated through.
In cheaper American restaurants food is often served swimming indiscriminately in sauce. I like the ingredients in the food I cook to still be easily distinguishable. I like quick pan-roasting and sautéing and throw in herbs, spices and whatever homemade condiments in the fridge.
Two of my favorite condiments are tomato-and-basil Italian sauce and Mexican tomato-and-chili salsa. So I like my sauces too but only to moisten and flavor what I cook, not to overwhelm the vegetables and meats.
In the Philippines of my childhood, we ate small portions of viands, filling ourselves up with rice. We were never told that food was expensive. It was just the way it was. Few people were overweight then. What I eat today in one sitting was often the entire board for the whole family sitting down to lunch back in those days.
One thing I took with me is the simple way of cooking fresh fish and vegetables. No complicated sauces, they were often just roasted over coals or even gently simmered in water and a few pieces of ginger, scallion and tomatoes. Boy, was that good!