Damion Chaplin

Damion Chaplin
Bay Area, California, Earth
August 22
Rev. Dr. Taciturn
Please read my ongoing sci-fi story at: http://open.salon.com/blog/aric_dante Look for a new entry every Friday.


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OCTOBER 19, 2010 8:07AM

The New Number Two Method of Cooking

Rate: 3 Flag

     Cooking in my kitchen requires extra techniques you won't necessarily be taught watching Hell's Kitchen.  I found out most of these the hard way, so now I share them with you with the hope that you might avoid some of the pitfalls I've experienced.

You will always be eating by yourself, so don’t be afraid to experiment.  You know you’ve always wondered why no one ever thought of sliced hot dogs on pizza, so now’s your chance to find out.  If it doesn’t work out, just feed it to the cat to eliminate the evidence.  No one will know better.  Just don’t tell the vet (“I don’t know, he must have eaten something.” works every time).

Most recipes are written by housewives, for housewives, so learn to halve recipes (or learn to like leftovers).  Many high-end recipes are written for two; you and a date.  However, the vast majority of recipes out there - especially the classics - are written for a family of four (two adults and two children).  If you don't mind leftovers, you can actually stretch one or two dishes over the entire week.  If you'd rather have variety though, learn to cut recipes in half.  I mean, who needs a whole 2-quart casserole?

• You will always have the right tool for the job, though it may not be labeled as such.  If it’s one thing gadget freaks have, it’s gadgets.  You may have never used a hand mixer before, but you undoubtedly have one still in its box.  Time to break it out.  If for some reason, you don’t have the necessary tool, use your imagination.  Remember that people had been cooking and baking for millennia prior to the invention of the kitchen.  Don’t have a rolling pin?  A clean vase or pipe or even an unopened beer can will get the job done almost as well.

• You will rarely have all the ingredients you need, so learn to substitute.  You will inevitably find yourself in the middle of a recipe one day before realizing you don’t have one key ingredient.  Learn the properties of that ingredient, and you’ll know what you can substitute.  Remember it’s not just about taste, it’s also about consistency and texture.  Many ingredients are there so the end result will act correctly, not just taste good.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  Peanut butter, for example, is an excellent substitute for shortening.  And, when in doubt, see bullet point #1.

• Many of your ingredients will look or sound alike, so learn to differentiate.  When attempting to substitute, it’s important that you know what you’re trying to substitute and what you’re trying to swap it out for.  Sugar and salt look the same but are very different.  Baking soda and baking powder are also two separate things.  Velveeta is not a proper substitute for cheese.  You don’t need to necessarily know the difference between the two, but you will need to know which one is the one you’re supposed to be using, and make sure you don’t choose the wrong one. 

• All ingredients are not made equal, so be choosy.  If the recipe calls for a beer batter, do you really think they were intending for you to use Pabst Blue Ribbon?  I know it’s what’s already in your fridge, but really, get a beer with some flavor.  If you’re making banana bread, splurge a little and get the organic bananas.  You’ll find that whatever it is you’re going to make, quality ingredients make quality dishes.

• Most recipes are submitted by people far less... meticulous than you, so feel free to alter it to suit.  You will frequently run into recipes where they have a measurement wrong, or they’ve completely left a step out.  For example, the ingredient list may call for a teaspoon of salt, but the instructions will neglect to tell you what to do with it.  Or a recipe calls for a tablespoon of flour when what they really meant was a cup of flour.  Don’t be afraid to say “That can’t be right” and alter the recipe.  If it looks like it’s wrong, it just may very well be.

• Most recipes are submitted by people who are head chef in the Twilight Zone, so don’t expect your results to be the same as theirs.  Even when the recipe is 100% correct, you will frequently end up with results that are completely different from what they say they ended up with.  Don’t be discouraged; everyone’s kitchen is different and will produce different results.  There are dozens of variables in any given kitchen that could produce unexpected results from your dish.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  And see bullet #1.

• Remember that it’s the end result that counts, not how you got there.  Sometimes you won’t even need a recipe.  There are cooks out there who must use a recipe for everything, including making a grilled cheese sandwich.  They will chastise you endlessly for not using a recipe, and insist that you aren’t a real cook.  Then they’ll eat your grilled cheese and ask how you made it, savoring every bite.  If you’re lucky enough to cook for another person, and they like it, it really doesn’t matter that you used the recipe off the Chef Boyardee label.

• It will always take longer than the “30 minutes prep time” stated in the recipe, so allow yourself most of the afternoon.  You will not chop vegetables as fast as most people, and frankly, it’s not recommended when you’re trying to pay attention to the TV.  You will also find it difficult to prep three dishes at once, so don’t even try.  Do them one at a time, taking your time.  With the New Number Two Method, slow and steady wins the race.

• Recipes you find online will be impossible to find again, so always bookmark them.  I know you did a Google search for ‘pizza crust recipe’ and clicked on the first link, but you will find that first link virtually impossible to find again, so be sure to bookmark that page for future reference.  Nothing’s worse than having all the ingredients and trying to guess what the recipe was, or what to preheat the oven to.

• You will realize shortly that food prep and laptops don’t always mix, so take precautions.  Tiny pieces of minced garlic are irresistibly attracted to the spaces underneath your laptop’s keys.  Actually, you’ll find just about anything that’s the size of a piece of minced garlic wants to party under your laptop’s keys.  Flour is also not a friend of your machine, and you’ll find the cooling fans in your laptop to be plenty adequate to draw in any airborne powder.  The answer:  you know that acrylic recipe book holder that’s still in its box?  It makes a perfect sneeze guard for any kitchen-bound computer.  Also, try not to wave your hands around in front of the computer unless they’re already clean (and dry).

• Learn to be magnanimous in your inevitable victory by sharing with others who are less fortunate.  If you are generous enough to share your culinary successes, expect to be asked how you made boxed mac ‘n cheese taste so good.  Expect phrases like “Why didn’t I think of that?” and so forth.  Remember that not everyone is a foodie genius like you (having never been exposed to The New Number Two Method of Cooking), and they won’t particularly like their faces being rubbed in it.  The phrase “Oh, it’s just something I whipped up” will go a long way toward increasing your kitcheny-value in others’ eyes.  And then, if you want, you can tell them you perverted the Martha Stewart recipe.





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These were GREAT! Laughed and chuckled all the way through them. Thanks for taking the time to write this. Rated!
Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
The KEY here is that "You will Always be eating alone". Nailed it! Which means that everything written in a recipe is without a doubt, only as good as the stuff in he pantry. I laugh because I never have all the ingredients or gadgets but somehow it comes out edible! You are a genius!