some thoughts on cooking

On April 2, 2019, I poached an egg, a feat I haven’t managed since. I don’t know where I’m going wrong. The water temperature? The size of the pan? What the fuck is a saucepan? I grew up thinking that a “pan” was shallow and a “pot” was deep. Do other people actually know how large their skillets are? Should I get a tape measure out the next time I go to make a frittata and if I do, do I measure from rim to rim or just the flat part? Was there a point at which a pan became a skillet and a small pot became a saucepan, or was a pan always a small pot and I just never learned because I studied bell hooks but never home ec? Cooking blogs imply no skillet is larger than 12 inches, but am I really only five skillets tall? That’s humbling.

I find it very hard to slice things. I know I’m supposed to be doing something special with my fingers so that I don’t cut them off, but I can’t hold the thing I’m slicing down if I’m curling my fingers into nubs. The Meryl Streep onion-slicing montage in “Julie & Julia,” a movie I watched once eleven years ago, haunts me.

The first time I used a corkscrew, I was 22 and trying to cook chicken cacciatore and I had to call my dad for advice while the peppers seared onto the pan. I guess that’s what you get for spending your college days drinking bottom-shelf vodka from a plastic bottle. Nowadays, I can usually get the cork at least half out before it falls in.

Grocery shopping is hard when you are the cart. Every couple of weeks I trudge home with half a liter of olive oil and four cans of beans in the Dagny Dover backpack I bought to look chic at the airport, dreaming of Costco and a car with a trunk.

I feel the same way about cooking that I do about Skee-Ball in that it brings me tremendous joy and accomplishment when it works out, but I could really live without other people watching me flail until I get the ball in the hole, manage to flip the pancake, etc. It’s inconvenient that you can’t very well ask your live-in partner to turn around while you fumble at dicing a squash, much like you can’t expect everyone else waiting for Friday night karaoke at the Alligator Lounge to turn around while you fling a Skee-Ball off the track. (A quick nod to everyone who’s going to Slack me after they read this to tell me they had no idea I had such strong feelings about Skee-Ball. I contain multitudes!)

Are Alison Roman’s recipes actually good, or have we all just groupthinked ourselves into believing they are?

(I understand there was a recent Twitter controversy that had something to do with Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen, who I thought was married to the CEO of T-Mobile until I realized that John Legend hadn’t made a career pivot. I don’t have the wherewithal to keep up with Woke Twitter, so this is a hot take based purely on my opinion that her recipes are oily and unbalanced.)

I’m afraid to buy a mandoline.

What’s the over/under on whether I’m actually washing my dishes properly? (Related: Last weekend I Googled “how to mop.”)

By the time I went to stock up on pantry staples, was out of quinoa and barley, so I went for a kilogram of amaranth. Turns out that’s a lot of amaranth! Also turns out that amaranth is not something you want to put in your bougie lunchtime salad! I think also that my amaranth might be regenerating itself in the bin. I take a cup out to make a sort of paste-y spiritual cousin to oatmeal and I swear the next time I check in there’s as much amaranth as there was before. I’ll never be done with it. Anyway, I found a recipe for amaranth with caramelized bananas that called for so much oil that before I knew it I was shallow-frying, which I’d avoided because I’m afraid of spitting oil. (As a reminder, I’m afraid of everything.) It was the most accomplished I’ve felt in years.

Related: Smoke alarms! Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em!

I come from a family of ambitious cooks. My mother makes multi-course meals for ten when we kids come to visit. My dad likes nothing better than to get up at two to start a brisket on his Big Green Egg, bonus points if it’s below freezing. My sister and her husband roast a whole pig in their backyard during the non-pandemic years. The other week my sister put my brother-in-law making a Negroni on Instagram Live — he also had some bones to pick with Stanley Tucci’s version — and I tried to convince them to do the Bo Ssam next. They thought I was joking, but I’m making up for a childhood of refusing to let my mother teach me to do anything.

I once had a boyfriend who sent me a treatise on how to buy “proper” olive oil. (Very Ina.) I toast him every time I buy the £3.50 liter at Tesco. I have gotten prissy about grating my own cheese, though.

Cooking blogs: Mostly a scam? Discuss.


1 Comment

  1. cj says:

    I can relate. Had to call my mom to find out how to boil eggs and make rice. At 25. I’m still not a cook, but one thing I enjoyed recently was a Gousto subscription. The instructions were sufficiently detailed and easy so I learned a handful of things while doing that. And everything was pre-measured (no converting cups to grams or mils etc). We only stopped because we weren’t always home in the evenings to cook it.


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