So, you’ve got a copy of the Mona Lisa hanging in your living room. Don’t ask why. You just do. Then, after living with the picture for a few weeks, you finally start to let go of the notion that the painting if perfect in everyone’s eyes. In other words, you begin to think about ways of improving the Mona Lisa. She needs more bling you decide. You begin by painting in a few decorative rings on the fingers. Then a necklace. Lipstick and eye shadow. Is this sacrilege? Is this totally wrong? After all, you’re the one who has to live with the painting.
When I made a recipe from Yotem Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem. I had received a jar of za’atar and was itching to use it. The recipe I chose was “Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar.” I made it, and it was great. But then, I began to think . . .
Is it sacrilege to change a recipe developed by Yotem Ottolenghi? Probably. I would defer to him on any food matters. Except, I’ve got this thing about wanting to feel free to change recipes– to tinker with them, so that they fit my own tastes, inadequacies, or limited supply of exotic ingredients. So, after making “Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar,” I’ll have to rename it the next time I make it.
Next time, I will ditch the onions. (This was a group decision by those of us eating it, although I think there may have been an unfair anti-onion /pro-squash bias, meaning that the onions didn’t stand a chance.) I’ll also replace the pine nuts with walnuts just because I don’t want to have to remortgage the house every time I make it. I’ll make a few other changes, too, but I don’t feel like letting them get out on the internet because, to many people, they would be cringeworthy in a culinary sense.
And so, the next time I make this wonderful dish, I’ll do it differently. Yes, I realize it’s like altering Munsch’s “The Scream” to become, “The Yodel,” or Monet’s “Waterlilies” to become, “Waterlilies with Man Doing Backstroke.” But ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I’m the one eating, “Roasted Butternut Squash & No Red Onion with Tahini If You Have Any and Za’atar on a Tight Budget.”