Sunday, March 23, 2008

Is Cooking an Art?

I've talked before, on other blogs about what makes a work "art". I've said that then experiencing art, it makes me think or feel something new, or in a new way.

But that's always been from the point of view of the viewer, the consumer of the work. What about from the perspective of the artist? What defines "art" then? And does cooking fit that definition?

Well, art, from the artists point of view, would have to come from something new. To simply follow a recipe, a formula, or a pre-made pattern wouldn't be art.

It would have to come from somewhere inside me, to help me discover something new about myself. It would have to allow me to express.

And, finally, it would have to connect with an audience, a consumer, in some way. And I think it would be "more artistic" if it connected on a deeper level than "Oh, that's nice", or even, "That sure tastes good!"

So, yes, I think that cooking can qualify on those three levels. It certainly doesn't always. I do like to modify recipes, and to even create new ones. I don't know that anything that I've ever cooked in my dutch oven has ever caused a new thought or an inspiration. But it is something I can aspire to.

Anyway, if it IS an art form, it strikes me as interesting. It would be one of the few art forms where enjoying the art in it's fullest way involves destroying it.

Also, it would be one of the few art forms that would have evolved from something that is fundamentally essential for survival, eating. Granted, food doesn't have to be artistically prepared to provide nourishment, but then, you don't need the theater, or paintings on your wall to survive, either.

Oh, well, enough musings.

Today, being Easter Sunday, we always have lots of family and friends over, so that usually means I cook. Traditionally (as of last year), I do a big ham in the 14” dutch oven. Last year, I did the Dr Pepper ham with all kinds of fruit and veggies in it for flavoring. It was great. But, of course, I wasn’t writing here in the Black Pot back then, so my dutch oven efforts for that year went unblogged.


This time I did it a little different. I used the recipe below for the baste/glaze/sauce. It worked out great! It was kind of an experiment.

Orange Dutch oven Ham

14” deep dutch oven
17-18 coals each above and below.

  • 10-11 lb bone-in ham
  • Whole Cloves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp mustard seeds (or dry mustard)
  • 1 Tbsp Allspice
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • Slices from 1 orange
  • Juice from 4 oranges

First of all, I put the ham in the dutch oven. I had to slice a bit off here or there to make it fit. I slit diagonal cuts in the top of the ham. That helps the baste and the glaze seep down into the ham more. The cloves I stuck in the slots. Then, I mixed all of the remaining ingredients from the second set of the list and rubbed those over the ham.

Then, I sliced up the orange that I had zested and laid those slices on top of the sugar/spice mix on the ham. If I do this one again, I would anchor those orange slices in place with toothpicks, because they kept falling off the ham into the dutch oven in cooking.

Finally, I juiced up a bunch of oranges and poured that on top of the meat. Pour it slowly, more like sprinkling it. Because I found that if you pour it quickly, you wash all that sugar and spice off the ham, and you have more work basting the meat!

Then, put it on the coals and let it cook. I let it cook for about 3 hours. Make sure you keep your coals fresh and hot. This was the first time I used a meat thermometer in dutch oven cooking. I strongly recommend it. It was so much easier to tell when it was done. 160 degrees! When you get there, you’re good! They say a pre-cookd ham you can call good at 140 degrees internal temperature.

Then, I also made Au Gratin Potatoes and Rolls (this time I dusted them with salad seasoning, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese. They were yummy, even with jam!

PS. For those of you who wonder why I never finished writing part II of the Great St Patrick's Day adventure, let me tell you. It was a total flop. Crash and burn. Honestly. The corned beef and cabbage turned out too salty to eat, and the Irish soda bread turned out to be a brick. It was embarrassing. I'm so grateful nobody came over for dinner that night.

It was the first time I ever had to throw away anything I'd made in the dutch oven. It was truly inedible. There have been times when it's not been that good. There have been times when we didn't eat it all, and we ended up throwing away some leftovers. But there has only been one time that we threw it all out because it couldn't be eaten. That was this last week.

But that's OK. These things happen, and I learn from them. It was just kinda tough, especially after seeing all those incr-edible chefs at the world championship.

But I'm good with that now. Today came out really well. A big 4-pot meal, and it was delicious! I'm back in the saddle!


  1. I believe that cooking can definitely be an art. I have a feeling that cooking in these pots is very much an art that I have yet to master. Hopefully that will come with some experience tho I like a more scientific approach where if you put this amount of that and that amount of this together you will end up with a specific end product.
    You say "I don't know that anything that I've ever cooked in my dutch oven has ever caused a new thought or an inspiration" You may be surprised that something you take for granted might be quite inspirational for some newbie like myself.
    Thanks for posting the link to your blog, I'll have to come back to read more!

  2. And thanks for coming to visit. Hope you do often. And if you have a work of art that did quite well, go ahead and send me the recipe and I'll post it here!




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