Category Archives: Tangents

Go forth and suck

An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler

I LOVE THIS BOOK!

AND YES THIS DESERVES ALL CAPS AS YOU SHOULD ASSUME I’M HYPOTHETICALLY SHOUTING THIS FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOPS!

Thank you Tamar Adler for putting into words what I have always thought but have never been able to articulate quite right. My good friend Emily sent this to me as a gift with rave reviews and only one chapter in, not only do I see why, but I had to stop and talk about it to someone. Anyone. Maybe I’m getting overzealous, but I was highlighting excerpts out of the book which is something I never, ever feel the need to do and so the proof is in the pudding my dear friends. Even if everyone I know did nothing more than check this book out of the library and read the first chapter I would be utterly satisfied.

For years it’s always made my heart break just a little more when I hear one of my patients say “I hate to cook” or “I have no idea what to cook”. Making healthful, good tasting food has become such a convoluted and complex concept people are driven to believe it’s unattainable when really it’s so stinkin’ easy. SO easy.

Exibit A:  I have zero. Zilch. Nada professional cooking experience and yet I have a food blog, give cooking demos and write food-centric articles for work. And don’t you dare assume I have some sort of natural talent because I don’t. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Like the rest of the world I just figured it out one piece at a time. Some have figured out much more than me, and others have yet to figure out quite as much. The point is that we all have the same capacity to learn. My theory is that too many people think that what happens on the Food Network or at their friends dinner parties or within the kitchens of their favorite restaurants is poised perfection. Well I’m here to inform you that it’s not. All those people are jackin’ stuff up, too. It just happened when you weren’t looking.

I’m getting all befuddled again. Read what Tamar said:

Cooking is both simpler and more necessary than we imagine. It has in recent years come to seem a complication to juggle against other complications, instead of what it can be – a clear path through them.

– Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal

Or this gem:

…we don’t need to be professionals to cook well, any more than we need to be doctors to treat bruises and scrapes:  we don’t need to shop like chefs or cook like chefs; we need to shop and cook like people learning to cook, like what we are –people who are hungry.

Bravo.

What we all need is the patience and humility to suck for a little bit for the chance to learn a lotta bit. What we all need to realize is even the best, most well respected chefs are still learning and still screwing up. And so will I. And so will you. And that’s to be expected. So with that in mind, to give a bit of transparency to the process that is cooking, I give you my 10 favorite kitchen screw ups and what I learned from them in hopes that it will encourage you to go forth…and suck.

  1. When I was 14 I would have my then 8-year-old sister make me grilled sandwiches because until the acquisition of a George Foreman grill in my parents’ household I could not make one without blackening the whole thing into toasty bits. Lesson learned:  George Foreman makes grilled cheese taste good. (So do pickles. Thanks grandpa!)
  2. As part of the dietetics curriculum, I took an intro level cooking class in college. “Someone is burning their garlic.” was sometimes (read: always) heard from the instructor. I was sometimes (read:  always) the culprit. Lesson learned: Though I  multi-task in the kitchen quite a lot, to this day before the garlic hits the saute pan everything stops and I give it my undivided attention for the next 30-60 seconds. I also learned that your burner doesn’t always need to be on high to cook things. Who’d a thunk? Special thanks to Chef Jett for teaching me a lot more than how not to burn garlic!
  3. I once made a three bean salad where I went as far as starting with dried beans. Soaked those puppies over night and everything. Of course you’re supposed to cook them, too. I mean, it’s a cold salad so why would I have ever thought to cook the beans first? Needless to say, it was fiber-licious. Lesson learned:  You should soak and cook dried beans before consuming.
  4. In high school one of our Spanish assignments was to do a cooking video all in Spanish. My partner and I made enchiladas where I unknowingly used powdered sugar instead of flour in the recipe and didn’t find out until we tasted it. I’d like to think I was too busy conjugating the verb cocinar or something, but that would be a stretch. Lesson learned:  Unless I’m 100% positive, I always taste test an unmarked container of flour or powdered sugar before adding it to a recipe.
  5. In years past, the thought of making baked goods, even boxed cupcakes would give me anxiety. In my head there were just too many ways it could go terribly, terribly wrong. I don’t know why. Lesson learned:  No lesson. I just built a bridge and got over it.
  6. A fried egg sandwich was one of the first things I learned how to cook on my own. Then somewhere along the way I couldn’t do it without having the whites come out crunchy, browned and completely unappetizing while the yolk was still runny. Lesson learned:  Much like my garlic epiphany, I realized that eggs should be cooked over medium to medium-high heat as opposed to my previous method:  Turn that burner to HIGH, making the pan so hot that when you spray Pam on it, it instantly burns.
  7. For my ENTIRE CHILDHOOD I would make instant oatmeal by pouring ~1/2 cup hot water from the tap on it and eat it immediately, essentially subsisting on a diet of raw oats, all the while wondering why when I’d see oatmeal at other places it would look so…creamy. Lesson learned:  Although you can eat raw oats and no actual harm was done, all oats from steel cut to instant need to be cooked for 1 to 20+ minutes in boiling water to be considered actual oatmeal. Also, don’t let your dad teach you how to make oatmeal.
  8. Sometime in middle school my friends and I cooked a 3-course meal for our parents. We were out of baking soda (or was it baking powder?) but no matter…we just figured it was the same thing and swapped one for the other. Lesson learned:  They are not the same thing. I think this lead to the develop of my phobia mentioned in #5. (This is for if you want to know how they are different)
  9. When kale chips became popular I thought I would just figure out how to make them vs. ever looking up a recipe, as I’m prone to do. Combine my “figure it out” process with my love for my broiler and you get 50% kale chips and 50% char chips. Lesson learned:  Google it. Google knows everything.
  10. I’m purposefully leaving this one open because I foresee a time in my future when I’m going to epically screw something up in the kitchen, and I want to leave room to tell you all about it 🙂

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Study Break

Editor’s Note for Context:  I decided to go to PA school. There. I said it. Can’t go back now. Ok, I’ve said it before that to some other people. Several times actually. But now it’s “out there”. Feels so official.

Considering class doesn’t start until tomorrow I learned a lot today. For example, I learned what the heck gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria is and which general class of antibiotics you would use to treat each. I mean, nowadays you can just google that information but I guess the point is that information is now in my HEAD. haHA! Take that Wikipedia! This also means I’m one more teeny-tiny half-baby-step closer to becoming a PA. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to be prescribing meds any time soon. Although I guess that could be only 4 years away, and 4 years can be a very long period of time or a very short period of time depending on if you are a high school freshman or mother of a kindergartner. I fall under neither of those categories therefore I will consider it a medium length period of time. Longer than it takes me to put together a photo book, but shorter than it took me to graduate from college. (<– Sentences that make me sound pathetic.)

Anyway…bacteria->antibiotics->prescriptions->kindergartners->being pathetic…are you still with me? We’re about to bring this tangent back home.

Microbiology has other fun facts. For example, Microbiology text books love to talk about STDs. They are microbes, so this seems generally appropriate, however I wonder if this is saying something about how Microbiology textbook writers think they can make information relatable to their generally college-aged readers.

In unrelated news I got my external hard drive back in a new (and I have to give Apple credit here) less eye appealing box. I took a photo of it then realized it was too monotonous looking to post. The important thing is that all 4-bajillion (give or take) of my photos made it safely into their new home and photography can begin once again. Huzzah! Here’s one I’m glad I didn’t lose:

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Conversations with Myself

I wish the following post was an exaggeration. I also wish this was the first time I’ve thought through things like this.

YES! I want.

It’s out of your budget right now.

But they’re, like, $60 cheaper than my current running shoes!

And $90 out of your budget.

But I need these shoes.

No you don’t, you’re just telling yourself that.

No, really, I swear. My shoes have well over 600 miles on them already.

True, but I think you can wait. It’s not like you’re running a marathon next month.

But…I need them.

You’ll live.

Isn’t my budget more of a guideline? I’ll be fine. I won’t even notice it.

You’ve said that before. I also recall you eating trail mix for lunch several days in a row because you had no more food in your fridge.

*Silence*

Glad we’ve settled that.

I bet Jesus would want me to have these shoes.

…I’m not going to validate that statement with a response.

I wish I made more money.

You’re richer than 99% of the entire planet.

I think I need to go buy some almond butter…

No you don’t. That’s an excuse to be in the vicinity of Dick’s Sporting Goods. You’re going to “swing by” to try them on and inevitably impulse buy them.

It’s not an impulse buy! I’ve wanted pink running shoes for, like, 3 months now!

Yeah, an eternity. How have you survived?

I know! So I should buy them!

I was being sarcastic. Now go clean the kitchen.

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