I rarely follow recipies, however I read TONS of recipies, and think about the flavor combinations and methods used. Then when I get in my own kitchen, I use that information from memory to create my own dishes.
I believe in tasting every ingredient separately, so you know the flavors you're putting into your food. And yes, I've tried almost every spice I've ever cooked with on its own, raw. Not always pleasant, but, I get a feel for it in my food.
My favorite things to cook
I love playing in the kitchen!
My favorite family cooking traditions
Exeperimentation. My dad is famous for going into the pantry and just grabbing random things to throw together. That is how I learned that creamed corn, mac n'cheese & spaghettios do NOT make a good goulash! I learned a lot about what compliments and what doesn't from his example. And although his combos didn't usually work well, I learned it is ok to take a risk and ok to be daring and play with your food.