What really makes a classic dish…

…is quite easy to say. Once upon a time it was just an idea for a simple, yet perfect match in food, a great recipe like salade niçoise, Caprese, a traditional Greek salad, a pizza Napoli and you could also say Sushi or Nasi Goreng or Peking Duck. Early travellers stumbled on those dishes that seemed to prove that God did exist after all, offering such formidable food all over the planet made of locally grown ingredients, not harvested long before time to serve some odd international markets, not treated with chemicals to look better and stay longer, not modified whatsoever.

Four ingredients, a thousand pleasures: Italian "Caprese".

Nowadays, it’s much harder, paradoxically, to prepare the simple classics. The international supply chain works better than ever before yet the average quality of staple foods has gone downhill. You’ll get tomatoes throughout the year but they’re tasteless, you’ll find mozzarella everywhere but it’s fake, you can buy ten types of olive oil in your supermarket but none of them is worth it, and so you won’t be able to prepare a tasty Caprese. You can only come up with a caricature of the original.

Many people still do believe that the recipes were the key to good cooking. Well, they’re not. The products are key, the quality of the ingredients. You’ll never prepare a decent steak with minor meat or a nice potato purée with potatoes of inferior quality. You’re tomato salad will only be as good as the tomatoes and the oil you use, and so on. It’s the first rule of successful cooking: find the good products. Spend money on them. Everything else will follow.

The Caprese I had for lunch today was made of premium fare: first class tomatoes from the Rabelais gardens, an ultra-modern enterprise dedicated to high quality food, real mozzarella di bufala, best olive oil from Provence and basil from my window sill. It was a delicious meal.

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