“If you’re not cooking with lemons, you’re not really cooking.” This proclamation, uttered by JBF Award winner Sean Brock during his Taste America: Washington, D.C. demo, cast some existential doubts over my own culinary chops. Was I using lemons enough? When had I last bought one to simply to have on hand, without a specific use in mind? If my food hasn’t been seasoned with lemon, is it even food?
Well, sure it is, but with unmet potential. Lemons are high in acid, and, like salt, acid triggers your saliva glands. The dissolving power of saliva helps our taste buds derive more flavor (in other words, greater enjoyment) from our food. Zippy lemon also energizes heavier ingredients, transforms texture, and is a great value. Lemon perks up my pancakes, massages my kale salad, and lends a backbone to my cocktail. Whoever coined the phrase, “Now you’re cooking with gas!” had it wrong. They should have invoked the omnipotent lemon.
We’ve been sharing a lot of cooking pointers for the new year lately, but the idea of lemon tips undersells the fruit’s unrivaled utility. The point is to use it all the time.