Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Art of Cooking Part II

Part II Learning How to Cook in the 1970’s and ‘80s and Beyond

I learned from TV that cooking could be fun.  “The Galloping Gourmet” was always a hoot to watch.  He would be plastered by the end of the show because he drank wine while preparing the food.  To his credit, he made a 180 degree turn around and became an advocate for alcohol restraint.  His food always looked great.   Then there was Julia Child, but her voice was a turn off.  And her recipes were too complicated. 

When I went to college, I learned to cook in self defense.  We had an apartment on campus during Junior and Senior year.  I became adept at creating masterpieces out of really inexpensive foods.  (Macaroni and cheese in the box became a tuna noodle and pea casserole).  My roommates and I would occasionally pool our meager resources and put together a real sit-down dinner.  Anything was better than the cafeteria. 

Medical school was another place where I expanded my repertoire.  I was a poor starving medical student on a shoe-string budget.  I lived around the block from a Wonder Bread Outlet and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every single day.  (I still love them and make my own jam now.) My roommates and I cooked all the time!  It was cheaper than eating out. It was challenging as one of my roommates didn’t eat any vegetables at all.  I really never understood that, but we accommodated her and made veggies for ourselves on the side.

So how is it that young men and women cannot learn how to cook now, in this age of the great international brain called the INTERNET?  There are zillions of cookbooks at the library, at second hand stores, at other peoples houses too, in the case of not having access to the internet. 

I would love to have the resources to pull a “Jamie Oliver” and open up a big “learning” kitchen.  I also would love to go into people’s homes and get rid of all of  the “crap” in the cupboards.  When I tell people that they cannot, under any circumstances, drink soda, they look askance at me as though I’ve asked them to amputate a finger or something.  It’s the same with chips and such, the same with asking them to stop eating at fast food emporiums.  I get this look of abject horror, followed by terror, followed by the, “I’m listening but you’re out of your mind” look. 

Yes, I know that look well.   Usually about then, I say, “So, honestly, I can see from the look in your eye that you think I’m nuts. Are you going to stop drinking soda?”  Usually they hesitate, hem and haw, and eventually respond that they’ll try.
Is soda so bad?  Well, it has no nutritional benefit to it.  It is extra calories you can use for other things which are better for you, like fruit, or vegetables. 

So back to cooking.  How hard is it to fire up the George Foreman, throw some spices on a chicken breast and cook it, zap some broccoli in the microwave and zap a small potato?  Put some salsa on the chicken and Voila! Dinner.  You’ve completely avoided the stove!

Look on line for cooking techniques and recipes.  Try out new grains and spices.  We have the “Green Eggs and Ham” rule in our house.  We all try new stuff.  If we don’t like it, we don’t repeat it and we don’t have to finish it.  Guess what?  We usually like it and finish it. 

Sometimes we cook real stinkers.  In fact, we did last night.  Into the garbage it went.  Oh well, live and learn.  Then there was the time I made the "Inedible Thai Chicken Curry".  It was EPICALLY BAD.  We put on a brave face and really tried to eat it.  Unfortunately,  there was so much pepper in it that we both started to sweat bullets and get chest pain, and laughed at ourselves for even trying to eat it as we threw it out.  It lives in the Annals of Bad Food History in our family. 

My Dad has a saying for foods he doesn’t like. It’s an attempt  to not insult my Mother.  You know never to repeat that recipe when he utters the phrase.  When asked if he wants more, he says, “Oh no. You shouldn’t have too much of a good thing.”  Out in the garbage go the leftovers!  Game over.  Failure.

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