I first met Mark Dyck (he pronounces it “dick” so I was saying it wrong in my head lo these many years) in Seth Godin’s Triiibes network, closed long ago. He was in the process of quitting his job (something in tech? I don’t remember) to service his baking customers full time.
He had a mailing list of over 1,000 members, and spent his weekends baking bread as fast as he could in his backyard oven, trying to meet the demand for artisanal bread. The result was Orange Boot Bakery, and I’m sad I never made it there for a slice and a cup before Mark &co closed Orange Boot and moved on. Running a bakery is more work than most people see in a lifetime.
These days he calls himself a storyteller. Having just launched his 67th podcast episode I’d say he’s fairly well established in that arena. It’s called Rise Up! and focuses on baking, but with Mark, any subject is fair game; seems to go for his guests as well.
We know a teacher in Denver who likes to take us out for exotic food every time we’re in the area.
The first restaurant she shared with us was a Moroccan place. As we walked through the front door and we saw people sitting on the floor on cushions I wish now that we’ve done that, uncomfortable as it might have been at my age. We sat in a regular booth.
Our daughter Fiona, who at the time was the pickiest eater in the world, was determined to try everything. We call her ‘travel Fiona’ when we’re traveling because she is always a little bit more adventurous.
Our friend warned us to try everything no matter how strange it looked . For instance, grilled chicken between 2 tortillas covered with powdered sugar. It’s delicious.
The restaurant seemed to be family run; it looked like a father and mother and 3 sons. When one of the sons noticed that Fiona was trying things but not eating very much he said “I’ll bring something you’ll like.” He came back with a dish, I don’t remember what, and she took a taste and he looked expectantly and she said “I don’t like it.”
His brother laughed and ran off to the kitchen saying “I’ll bring something you’ll like” and he came back and they took turns through the whole evening bringing us plates of food, for which we never got charged, to try to tempt Fiona into liking some kind of Moroccan food. She’d always taste it very politely and think about it and say no, I don’t really like it. And then whoever had brought it got laughed at.
At the end of the evening the father came. He’d been watching this the whole time and he said that he was going to bring something that he knew Fiona would like. He came back with a plate of what he called ‘genuine Moroccan cheesecake.’ Now, it looked and tasted to me like regular old cheese cake. But the 3 sons stood back and their father won.
For our 14th anniversary on December 26th Best Beloved bought me The Flavor Bible. Pick a food, any food, and find suggestions from obvious through interesting to bizarre (but still right) for flavor combinations.
Not a cookbook. Dishes are mentioned by name only. The suggestions are classed by the number of world class chefs recommending them.
This book is the epitome of principles rather than rules, my favorite way of gaining expertise. I want to be, not just a good cook (already there in spades) but an excellent cook, an interesting cook. Knowing how to follow a recipe is important, but on its own does not lead to creativity.
Long before I discovered it is an unusual ability, I used to taste combinations in my mind. I’ve long chosen spices based on what works in my head, and I’ve rarely been wrong about a combination. This requires great familiarity, though. Spices or foods I’ve never or rarely eaten don’t work this way.
Seeing what brilliant chefs find interesting but tasty allows me to think about new ways to combine flavors while still keeping it delicious.