Tag Archives: rants and raves

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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