- 1 Overview
- 2 Skill Ranks
Development Credit: Faith
The creation of food, hot or cold, sweet or savoury. It is important to distinguish between the two skills Baking and Cooking. Fundamentally, baking refers to the cooking in an oven of flour-based items (sweet or savoury) and also encompasses the creation of desserts, including confection work. Cooking, however, refers to the preparation and production of edible items ranging from meals to preserves. Fundamentally, everything that is not baking, and which produces things to eat, is cooking.
It is also important to note that cooking usually involves heat, but not always. For example, the preparation of a salad or the technique known as ceviche (see techniques, below) are both included in the cooking skill, but do not use heat. That being said, the vast majority of cooking uses heat to produce food stuffs. From the chef in a high-end restaurant to the individual roasting a rabbit over a campfire, cooking is prevalent all over Idalos. After all, everyone has to eat.
A list of ingredients followed by instructions on how to prepare, cook and present a dish. Whilst random success is always possible, at Novice and Competent, the cook needs to follow recipes to create a consistently successful dish. When they reach Expert, they begin to be able to adjust those recipes to fit their own taste / need and then, at Master, the character is able to create new recipes and, fundamentally, craft new dishes. A recipe can be verbal or written down.
A large part of the cooking skill is in the preparation of ingredients. Whether that is peeling and chopping vegetables, boning a carcass or cleaning fruit, there are as many different methods of preparation as there are ingredients and dishes. Each cook will have their own preference for how they prepare, often leading to specific methods used with particular ingredients. These methods range from always using a particular type of oil in the preparation of a particular meat to always chopping particular vegetables in a specific shape.
The processes and techniques of cooking include, but are not limited to the following. The first three are examples of basic techniques, while the last three are examples of more advanced ones.
There are two types of roasting. First, the cooking in a stove or other enclosed heat source of meat, fish or vegetables. Second, spit roasting over a flame, often with a rotisserie turning the whole animal for roasting, although small ingredients may be held over an open fire on a long fork.
Cooking in boiling liquid, this is most often a technique used with vegetables, although also evident in the creation of soups and stews.
Again, there are two types of frying: shallow frying, which is cooking in a flat pan, often with the addition of some oil or other fat, and deep frying which is dropping in heated oil.
Cooking without heat, by the use of the acid in citric fruits such as limes. This is usually used on fish or other delicate and quick-to- cook ingredients.
Suspending over a steaming pan, usually in a bamboo container of some kind, in order to allow the steam to cook the ingredients inside the basket.
Using one of a variety of methods to preserve ingredients. Drying out, creating jams or preserves, salting meat and a number of other methods are included in this. Creating preserves such as jam, chutney, jelly or marmalade involves a lot of heat and stove-work by reducing the ingredients in sugar and a natural gelling agent, with careful control of temperature often necessary to get the best results. Preservation techniques such as drying fruit and salting meat are usually undertaken with a recipe specific to the ingredient, stating the heat and time required. Pickling in vinegar is also included here.
At its most basic, cooking requires a heat source, something to cook in (usually a pot or pan) and nothing else. Boiling or deep frying requires a pan, roasting might require a tray to put in the over and so on. Basically, however, all that is needed is the heat source to cook the food and something to put the food on or in.
As the cook gets more advanced, they might begin to experiment with techniques, quantities and measures. These will require, or will be enhanced by, more advanced equipment such as measuring cups, better cookware and so on. See the price list for current prices.
The serving up of a completed dish, or putting in a jar the finished jam or chutney. The presentation of food is important and the axiom of "the first bite is with the eyes" applies here. Basic presentation means putting the food on, or in, whatever item will be used to serve it (plate, jar etc). As the cook moves up the levels of experience, they begin to consider aesthetics of first the food itself (e.g: putting a piece of crisped skin with a chicken breast, slicing meat to make it look more appealing), then the placement of the food on the plate (e.g: trying to create a balanced look to a dish, considering colour and how to make one ingredient stand out more) and finally, the crockery used to serve it (e.g: the shape, size and colour of a plate, how the food is placed on the plate).
Whilst it is obvious that the Baking skill and the Cooking skill are very closely related, other skills are very useful in terms of Cooking. Gardening and Hunting, for example, allow the character to know what ingredients they have, as does Agriculture and Fishing.
The novice cook is learning basic techniques and considering recipes which are pre-existing and not too complex. More advanced techniques or recipes are beyond the novice cook. However, they might well have a few simple dishes which they cook regularly and well. Still, they stick to the recipe and do not have the skill, or the taste buds, to develop a recipe further yet. Preparation and presentation are likely to be basic, not using any fancy methods of either. A novice cook not following a recipe is likely to end up with something inedible, tasteless, burnt or under-cooked.
When the character reaches competent they are able to follow more advanced and complex recipes. They can also begin to adjust basic recipes. At competent level, basic techniques are mastered and advanced techniques begin to be learned. Also, more subtleties (such as temperature control, for example) in basic techniques are used. At this level, the preparation becomes more complex, usually in terms of uniformity of size and shape and the cook might start considering presentation.
At expert, the character can start to amend recipes, even complex ones, to make them more appropriate to their own needs. All techniques are known and able to be performed now. Preparation and presentation are recognised for how important they are and are given equal weighting to the cooking. As the character starts to be able to experiment with their own recipes, they begin to combine flavours and textures in new ways, some of which work and others which very much do not. Wonderful meals can be created by this individual and they are able to bring out flavour from some of the most bland ingredients.
With mastery of the skill comes the ability to create and craft recipes as well as preparing, cooking and presenting exquisite dishes. Truly a master of their craft, each bite is a taste sensation and they have developed an apparently instinctive knowledge of how to cook. From a simple soup to a feast for a King, this individual is able to cook marvelous food and present it beautifully. They understand food on a level that most never reach and they can often go on to become pioneers in their field.