He had a most excellent post earlier this week, on cooking. Allow me to quote a bit here:
Cooking, to mean anything, must involve the transformation of raw ingredients into satisfactory edibles.
Cooking prowess can be divided into stages:
1. Following exact directions with a basic command of culinary technique.
2. Modifying existing recipes based on experience with a variety of ingredients.
3. Creating brand new recipes.
4. Improvising brand new recipes.
5. Total culinary virtuosity: improvising brand new recipes with improbable ingredients (if you have read Tony Bourdain, foie gras with a Starburst candy reduction should immediately come to mind).
I generally consider myself to be between level 3 and level 4. Let me give an example.
Earlier in the week, John called me from the store to ask what he should bring home that I could cook for dinner. He was standing at the fish market. I drew a mental blank and told him to bring home whatever, I would figure out a way to cook it. He brought home a pound of sea scallops and a pound of boned salmon.
I started some rice cooking in the back ground, and got out my favorite pan (it's a 10" covered skillet aka a chicken fryer - but a wok would also work).
I peeled and diced 2 carrots, chopped up two celery stalks and a baby vidalia with greenery (you could also use a bunch of scallions or a leek)and sliced a couple cloves of garlic. These I sauteed in a little butter in the pan. I then added in a cup of sake and simmered until the sake was almost completely evaporated. While that was evaporating, I rinsed the scallops and cut the salmon into scallop sized chunks. I tossed them in to the pan and seasoned with a seafood herb mix I keep on hand (Trader Joe's Seafood broil) - probably about a tablespoon or a little less. I sauteed this until the the fish lost its translucency and then I tossed in a 4 oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts with their marinade and heated through. Served it over the rice with a green salad on the side and some crusty bread. Yum.
Would this be level 3 or level 4?