Is it the chef that makes the food good, or is it the ingredients?

The inspiration for such a question came from my grandmother while I was eating lunch this afternoon. I was sitting at the counter eating one of those Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese things, and she mentioned something about how everyone says she “makes the best macaroni and cheese in the world.”  I plead no contest, of course… but it left me to wonder.  Here’s how my train of thought went on over the next two minutes –

  • “In the world”?  Hmm…. she hasn’t even been in a contest for the county fair… I’m not sure about worldly acclaim.
  • Ingredients.  Everyone can use the same ingredients.
  • If there was a food tasting competition specifically for macaroni and cheese… and everyone used the same ingredients… would it taste the same?
  • What if it didn’t?

No, I’m not crazy.  I just happen to think a lot when I’m eating.  You know… the kind of deep thoughts that no one but the thinker could possibly give a damn about.

Anyway, the concept bothered me.  It still does.  Doesn’t it make sense that if everyone does the same thing (or uses the same ingredients), then it should come out exactly the same?  Could I be missing something?  Is there some sort of magical chef dust that makes everything taste “just right”?  I know the concept of The Secret Ingredient, but in my opinion it’s cheating.  If you’re claiming that your macaroni and cheese is the best in the world and you use a teaspoon of Mrs. Dash or whatever, it doesn’t count.  No sir, that’s an unfair advantage.

Ho-hum… such a strange concept.  But one I can’t dwell on any longer.

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