As a result of my spinal muscular atrophy and the damage it has done to my body, I have to be very careful when I am eating to avoid choking. With my disability weakening the muscles used in swallowing, along with all of the scar tissue from my trache surgeries taking up extra room in my neck, there is not a lot of room for food to go down my esophagus. One of the ways that I have adapted my diet to overcome this obstacle is by keeping my food as soft and moist as possible. I accomplish this by putting sauces, dips, and other condiments on pretty much everything I eat. These sauces help moisten my food, while also acting as a sort of lubricant to help things slide on down to my belly. Since I put some sort of condiment on nearly every bite I take, it makes sense that as I have gotten into cooking I have started experimenting with making my own sauces and dips. I have developed, and I would nearly say perfected, my own delicious recipes for various condiments ranging from a tangy honey mustard to an Asian sweet and sour sauce to, most recently, my own blazing buffalo sauce (which is available on my Pinterest Cooking Board). The last few weeks, as I was working on my buffalo sauce recipe and going through the process of gradually modifying it until it was just right, I realized something. I realized, as I was tinkering with my concoction one little bit at a time, that the process for modifying and developing your own sauce recipe is extremely similar to the way you should go about monitoring and adjusting your body’s health, mood, and overall well-being. Furthermore, by learning this process in the kitchen, you will then be able to apply it to your life in general, which will help you be both healthier and happier (plus you will have some kick ass sauces).
The first step in developing your own sauce recipe is to find an existing recipe to use as a starting point. You can get this jumping off point through the recommendation of a friend, out of a cookbook, or by finding a well reviewed recipe online. All that matters is that you think the recipe will at least be similar to what you want your final product to be. After selecting your starter recipe, you should make the sauce exactly as the recipe describes without any alterations. Once it is done, taste the sauce several times to really get a good idea as to its flavor profile, and then put it in the refrigerator overnight and give it another taste the next day. This is important because many sauces change quite a bit after being allowed to settle for a few hours. Now that you have a working knowledge of what this recipe tastes like, as well as what needs to be improved upon, it is time to really start cooking. With my buffalo sauce, I knew that my starter recipe needed more heat (surprise, surprise), and it needed to lose the harsh, vinegar-like aftertaste that lingered after each
bite and made the flavor seem very acidic. It is always important in altering a recipe to tackle one thing at a time, and since I knew that adding more heat was as easy as adding more cayenne pepper spice than the starter recipe recommended, I did that first. I added a pinch more cayenne pepper, then gave it a taste, added a pinch more, gave it a taste, and just continued this process until it was as spicy as I thought it should be. Next I needed to find a way to get rid of the overpowering, vinegar aftertaste. Thanks to my knowledge of kitchen chemistry and flavor profiles, I knew that milk products often work well to tone down overly acidic and spicy flavors, so I decided to substitute some of the vegetable oil in the starter recipe with butter. This would maintain the high fat content that the oil provided, while also inserting some dairy to diminish the acidic flavor ruining my sauce. Once again I worked up slowly by adding a teaspoon of butter, giving it a taste, add another teaspoon, give it a taste, and so on. Eventually (two tablespoons of butter later), I found the right mix of vegetable oil and butter, and my sauce was finished. It was a great consistency, had just the right amount of heat, and had a good flavor that left you wanting more. In other words, it was the perfect buffalo sauce.
If you look back at this process for modifying and developing the perfect sauce, you will notice that I probably tasted the sauce, in various different forms, at least 30 times. I let my tongue and tastebuds be my guide as I moved closer and closer to my perfect, final product. I did not jump to Google, some other recipe, or another person to try to find a way to improve my sauce. I just let my body guide me. It was recognizing this that caused me to realize that this “taste test process” is very similar to the way that I keep my body in proper balance throughout my day. In order to make sure that I am in good shape physically and my mind is well centered emotionally, I am constantly checking in with my body to see how I am feeling. I listen to what my body and brain are telling me and adjust my actions accordingly. When I feel like my lungs need a break or my hips hurt a lot, I do not go to the internet or look in a book to find a way to fix things. I just trust what my body is telling me and follow my instincts. Just like following the guide of your tastebuds is a gradual process, I take what my body tells me and make small, minor adjustments until my body says that is just right. By trusting my body and following this same method that produces a perfect sauce with my overall well-being, I am able to maintain the best possible balance within my body throughout the day and get the most out of each and every day that I can.
Developing the perfect sauce recipe is not an easy task and can be quite time consuming, but if you trust your tastebuds you will eventually end up with a delicious product to enjoy. Likewise, keeping your body and mind in the proper balance during your day is not easy either, but if you listen to what your body is telling you and go with your gut, you will end up in a place where you are both healthy and happy. This may be a lengthy process on both counts, and you may have to endure tasting a lot of bad sauces and withstand some discomfort along the way, but this method will get you to the best possible outcome both in the kitchen and in your life. Remember that you are an expert on your body, and even if you do not realize it consciously, your body knows what it needs, so trust it. Just like you would not let someone else tell you what your favorite flavor is (you would trust your tastebuds), do not rely on someone else to tell you what is best for your well-being and happiness. By applying this gradual process, you will end up well fed with a great taste in your mouth ready for the next bite, as you sit back and smile, healthy and happy, wanting more out of life.