advice to the frustrated home cook

Uncategorized

I’ve read some of your blogs, and I think this is what you want:

something delicious
something fast
affordable
makes a lot (depending on how many you’re feeding)

I will go ahead and say that you will be let down at cooking shows who tell you that you can cook something brilliant in 30 minutes. And you can, don’t get me wrong, but those people cooking on TV are professionals, and have done it for a long, long time.

Hear me out!

I’m not here to sound discouraging. I love to see folks cooking at home. There’s something so important about cooking a meal in your home. The smells, making people hungry, gathering folks together. It is what is most important in a lot of our days.

But what I see, is aggravation.
I read people’s frustrations with not having enough time, or you’ll head straight to the freezer section. (Which honestly, you do what you gotta do. I’m not judging you on your eating and cooking habits. I just know, you can do it.)

Yes, you can do it.

I know you worked a long day.

You already made the mistake of coming in to sit down.

You’re watching that show that you love.

Then your stomach starts to growl.

Don’t panic. You still have time to make good choices.

Just because Sandra Lee is doing something “interesting” with canned cheese, doesn’t mean you have to. This is where the home cook learns to grow.

And you know what? You’ll get faster, and faster at prepping meals. That’s what TV shows don’t show you. They have all their stuff ready to go. Oh, four cloves of minced garlic? Watching folks with even decent knife skills, mincing a clove of garlic takes some sweet time. Don’t do that to yourself. Or if you do, leave time for it. Leave time for your prep. Leave time to get things right.

So often, we rush to put things in our belly, and are discouraged at the final product. But then, you’ll start to nail stuff better and better. You’ll have your go-to chicken dish and will think the night before about marinating a pork shoulder, soaking beans, or baking fresh bread.

Cooking at home takes time. There’s no way around that. If it’s not important for you to dedicate time your craft, you will always feel frustrated at the outcome.

Now, I am not speaking to the mom or dad with kids. I can’t say that I have experience with little ones and different eating schedules. And that’s even if your kid wants to eat what your eating or if that’s even an option. Whatever, I’m not getting into that, but what I have seen, and what I like to see, is kids interacting with their food.

Isn’t that the whole point? To connect with the ones you are feeding?

If I’m missing the point, excuse my ignorance. I realize it is different.

I also fall victim to a frozen pizza from time to time. And after I’m done hating myself (just kidding), I’ll know deep down, I won’t be able to do that for a long time. At least I hope I don’t.

dsc_00022

I’ve talked about this before. (In fact, almost exactly three years ago. Damn, I’ve come a long way.)
It helps to keep some things around. The things that they always have on TV shows and in magazine articles. Meal prep.

Have your stuff organized. Your onions chopped. Your liquids ready to be measured. Eggs and butter at room temp if they need to be. Water hot. Oven pre-heated. Yes, kitchens are hot places. But you know the saying.

Don’t kill yourself. Keep it simple. Use that boneless, skinless chicken breast that you love to buy. But please, cook it in a lot of butter or olive oil or something. Load that hot pan up with thyme and garlic and lemon juice. Just throw it all in a pan, tilt the pan, let the juices form at the bottom and baste that super-mom cut of meat. Delicious!

And now, you are a kitchen stud. Roast some vegetables while you’re doing it.

There are many uh, “wonderful”, uh, “things” you can do while your food is cooking.

Just uh, don’t forget to set a timer. 🙂

Multitask. Yeah, that’s what I mean.

– – – – –

I guess that’s my advice to home cooks struggling with time. Buy good ingredients and cook them simply. Save dramatic dishes for the weekend. Good rice with good vegetables is a GOOD thing. And it’s cheap and easy.

Maybe I’m just beating a dead horse now.

Fair enough.

the industry.

Uncategorized

Usually people find themselves in the service industry on their way to something bigger and better. Some are in school hoping for that sweet spot to open up right as they walk across the stage to receive their 20,000-dollar education. Others are in this line of work because they have no other choice and the economy is pitter-pattering slowly, but surely. Then there are the ones who get pulled in and have a hard time leaving.

I guess I would say I’m somewhere in between them all. My brief stint in the fast-food industry ended in 10th grade when I thought I could work at Wendy’s, only to be frightened by the man (who had just gotten out of jail) turning burgers on the flattop and flipping out because I thought I had locked myself inside the walk-in refrigerator. I had a lot to learn. My work ethic was next to nothing, but luckily… that has changed.

The industry makes you harden up. Sometimes it makes your cuss more and forces you to bite your tongue more than ever. Some are better with customers and others are better at making the products to serve. I’m better at the latter, but learning to fight off my introverted tendencies to feel energized by small talk and the usual “hey-how-are-yas”.

I think the people in the industry do some of the noblest work there is. The cooks, servers, bartenders and baristas face the best and worst of the human condition. People have to eat and drink, so we give it to them. If they don’t like it, we hear about it. There’s a special place in my heart for these people and anyone who knows me well will tell you how intimidated I am about the waiter/waitress. After all, they are the ones to judge whether you are cool or not. I imagine their thumbs, edging up and down, determining whether you’re a decent human being like the final say of a gladiator’s death.

But we all know about the bad ones. The servers and staff who just stink at what they do. And bless their heart. It’s not always their fault [though sometimes it is]. When you get stuck in a rut, it’s hard to act happy. Some customers will eat you alive because their money is in your hands. You better not waste it on a bad experience. I’ve been around some who take this too seriously – patronizing every action of the server when I think it’s just fine. “She totally forgot the bread!” or “I can’t believe how awkward he is…”
Of course, everyone is different. I like the simple small talk and order. The waiter doesn’t need to know where I went to high school or when my sister’s birthday is! We have such odd expectations. Most other cultures wouldn’t give you nearly as much attention as we do here. I just want to be liked by the employees, because I know how it is. When you work in the trenches, you join a special group of people.

You are a part of the industry.

A couple of nights ago, I was serving drinks at a local event. A guy walked up and I gave him his deliciously cold IPA saying, “Here ya go sir…” in a fairly relaxed tone. He responded… “Ahh, don’t call me sir. I work in the service industry too. I’m a chef. Look at my hands. We’re all equals here…” He smiled and walked off. As a person who admires the work, I felt some small pride that I had just joined the ranks of the disgruntled, [at times] over-worked and underpaid folks who make a living feeding other people.

Tip your servers well. You can always tell the kind of folks who have worked for tips because they generally tip well. I can only assume that many believe the restaurant or café pays them well enough to make a living. This isn’t always true. In fact, it’s rarely true. We count on tips as major parts of our income, so we do appreciate it when you treat us well. And as the rule goes in our household, if we can’t afford to tip, we probably shouldn’t go out.

But, I’m only speaking upon myself because we all have our things and this just so happens to be important to me.

After all, in the bigger picture, we’re all equals. Let’s work on treating each other like human beings.

I mean after all, just look at our hands.