Ok, so almost every week, I have a discussion with my wife. I can’t complain, she does all the food shopping based on a list that we both contribute to making. She does the best with the shopping locations we have available. However, I tend to be a bit picky, especially the first time I prepare a new dish. The first run through of any new recipe for me has to be letter perfect, ingredient wise, technique wise, every which way. Usually after the initial attempt, I modify the dish to suit both my level of cooking skill and our families individual taste (yes, this means adding more garlic to most dishes).
So here is my frustration. Quite often, the exact ingredient is not locally available. Be it the wrong shape of pasta, a certain kind of hot pepper or even, heaven forbid, the wrong cut of meat, occasionally, an ingredient has to be changed to accommodate local availability. Now, I’m not stupid. I know that you can make a damned fine meal with one or two slight modifications to ingredients. I do it quite often. But, philosophically, I balk. To change the contents changes the meal. I know with proper attention and care, the dish will still turn out great and everyone will love it. But on a basic level, its no longer the dish I started out cooking. It because something different, a variation on a dish. This is fine for subsequent preparations but as I said above, the first run through, I want a dish as close to the intended form as possible. Substitutions come later.
This leads to a question that I’m already starting to answer for myself as I type… Do I modify my intended menus based on what is available or do I modify the dishes on my menu to match ingredients. The logically side tells me that I need to use what is available and articulate the best dishes intended for the ingredients on hand. This is favorable in my opinion to changing a dish that calls for an ingredient that isn’t available. Maybe someday, I’ll have access to every ingredient in the world, fresh and in season, all the time but for now, concessions must be made.