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The Pleasures of Cooking

By jolly st nick in Op-Ed
Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:54:21 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

People are rushed; we never seem to have enough time. We eat food that is fast to prepare, quick to eat, often while on the move in our car or walking down the street.

All the good things about food are diminished by this life style. Whether we seek pleasure, comfort, or even relaxation from eating, food has become like a drug to which we have developed a tolerance. It delivers less and less and we need more and more. We our becoming overfed and undernourished, physically and spiritually.

We need to change our relationship to food. We to eat less prepared food, and cook for ourselves more.

The Costs of Not Cooking

The greatest cost of not cooking is that many people don't know what good food is anymore. They don't have the experience of taking a nice crusty baguette out of the oven and smearing a gob of golden butter on its tender, steaming insides (or whatever suits their fancy).

An ancillary casualty to the quality of food is its nutritional value. Fast food is manufactured to provide the greatest sensual pleasure that can be achieved without compromising rapid eating. Consider the difference between drinking a glass of orange juice and eating the equivalent number of oranges. Convenience processing virtually eliminates fiber from the diet and replaced by processed carbohydrates and sugars. You can swallow a thousand calories from a fast food restaurant in a matter of mere minutes, wheras the equivalent calories from a home cooked meal would take a significant portion of an hour. This means we eat more calories before we are sated, enjoy less nutrition, and are hungrier sooner.

Finally, cooking is theraputic. Our problems and worries occupy our heads and hurt our bodies. To do something that takes mindfulness, has its own rhythm and takes its own time, and occupies our hands in a useful and beautiful task is good for what ails us.

Why Don't People Cook More?

Well people are rushed, to be sure. But why are they rushed? Is there really so little time? I don't think this is the reason. People spend prodigious amount of time watching television, after all. I think the answer is habit. We just are not in the habit of spending time with food, unless we are a "foodie". Personally, I don't think one has to become a foodie to change one's relationship to food. There are aspects of the foodie culture I don't particularly like: faddishness, fussiness and obsessiveness are common pitfalls. Julia Child, the patron saint of foodies, is not in my opinion a foodie herself. When she lived here in Boston, she used to send chefs into fits of terror when the wait staff would rush into the kitchen and announce her presence. But she herself said that she was not fussy about food at all. And being fussy is not what I am advocating, rather I believe that people slow down and enjoy the process of creating and consuming food more.

Another reason people don't cook more is that many today are second generation eat-and-runners. When you learn to cook at your parent's side, it is absorbed like language, almost unconsciously. If your parents did not cook much, neither are you likely to do so. However, while cooking can get quite complicated, especially the logistics of a fancy dinner party, anybody can prepare wonderful food. You don't need to have gone to the Cordon Bleu or learned at grandma's side. Start with good ingredients, and don't try to be too ambitious at first, and you will consistently produce food that is better than you can buy at most restaurants.

The Accomplishments of Cooking

Every basic cookbook has a section on the basic skills that a cook needs. I think there are practically no necessary skills to cooking. Clearly you need some skills to do any particular recipe, but the variety of food is so great I don't think there are any techniques that are truly universally needed. Very little technique is required to produce some great food.

Let me illustrate this principle. if you have never cooked anything, go down to your supermarket this summer and buy some apples, pears, grapes, several kinds of melons, strawberries, blueberries and any kind of fruit that strikes your fancy. Then in the gagets aisle, get a "melon baller". Take it home and wash the fruit. Slice the apples and like fruit into a bowl with a little lemon juice (it will keep them from discoloring). You can peel the apples if you wish. Slice open the melons and dig out their flesh with the melon baller, using each end of the baller so there is a little variation in size. Throw in the berries, and, if you want to be fancy, a splash of red wine. Toss the whole thing to mix.

If you are a person who lives on food prepared by somebody else, you have very likely just prepared the best meal you will eat all summer. It is amazing the admiration such a simple thing will evoke. All that is necessary is that you select good ingredients that go well together and use the simplest imaginable preparation. Now there are many difficult skills in cooking, such as (in my opinion) pastry making. But you don't need any of them, unless they appeal to you.

So, I will leave the matter of basic skills to the cookbooks, which cover the skills needed for preparing their own contents. Instead, I will proposed a set of three fundamental accomplishments every cook should have.

First, to be able to follow recipes. It takes a little order, disicipline and faith to do this. You have to measure accurately. You need to follow the directions faithfully (assuming you have a good recipe -- more on this later). It is not uncommon for intermediate cooks to start to have difficulties with recipes, as they become more familiar with the process and tend to follow the procedure less carefully. Many steps, such as sifting flour, have purposes which you may not understand. Cakes have delicate balances of ingredients and reversing the order of some steps can change their texture dramatically. You should be able to read a recipe, decide whether it is something you want to try and are able to do, and then do it.

Second, to be able feed oneself and family. There are many abilities required to accomplish this, some of which are needed in the kitchen, others in the market, and some are in the realm of logistics and planning. When you go to the market, you see what is available, and it creates ideas or changes ones you already had for what you plan to eat; you buy it, store it, and prepare it. It requires the ability to imagine and adjust. If you don't have one ingredient, can you substitute? Can you come up with a similar dish? This is in some ways the hardest part of cooking -- to meet your goals for nutrition and pleasure while being flexible and economical.

Third to be able to express love. Everyone must eat, but to cook good food for somebody is to wish them to live well. Ordinary food, lovingly prepared can sometimes comfort the stricken, strengthen the weary, and persuade the hesitant more powerfully than all but the most eloquent words. I remember a family member who returned on a visit from overseas. His business venture had failed, and he was trying stubbornly to make a go of what left of it. I baked him a cake: a simple yellow cake with some nice peach halves baked in, frosted with whipped cream and slices of peach and other fruit. While eating the cake, he decided to come home for good.

The Tools of Cooking

Most cooks love kitchen gadgets. However, the complicated ones (other than a good food processor) are actually the least useful and take up the most space and expense.

You need a good paring knife, a chef's knife, a vegetable peeler, more cutting boards than would seem reasonable at first, a set of pots and pans, a rolling pin, lots of dishcloths, and precious little else.

Manufacturers of useful appliancs like crock pots will tell you that you can do all your cooking in them, which I suppose is true, but I use my crockpot quite a bit for making stock but practically nothing else. I know some people who actually tried baking turkeys in their microwave because the book said they could, but I know nobody who has done it twice. Ours mainly serves to boil small amounts of water, pop popcorn, and melt butter. Bread machines make bread better than you can usually buy, but not as good as you can make yourself. When I'm in a hurry I use mine to make dough, but almost never bake in the thing.

A good cookbook will have lots of good ideas of what you need, which points out your very first need: a good basic cook book.

The first and most important thing about a cookbook is that it have recipes that you want to make, and that are accurate. I cannot stress this enough. The old standard The Joy of Cooking has many things to recommend it, but I would never recommend it as the first acquisition for a beginning cook because it's recipes often have to be tweaked to get them to come out right (at least in the older editions I've used). Avoid faddy topics at first. You may be tempted by titles like Gourmet Meals in 20 Minutes; I actually have this one, and it does work, but it's more of a stunt. When you have come home from work braindead the last thing you want to do is culinary sleight of hand.

The James Beard Cookbook is in many ways the best beginner's cookbook I can think of. The recipes are reliable, the directions are very clear, the advice usually worth taking. A book like this can teach you that mysteries like souffles are not really all that hard to solve. The main problem with this cookbook is that it is dated. While a great cookbook never goes out of date (e.g. Fannie Farmer), many of the recipes are rather more heavy and calorie laden than most people want to eat today. Nonetheless a very good beginner's book if you can find it.

If I had to be limited to one cookbook, it would be Shirley Corriher's Cookwise. This book is not without its drawbacks; most of the recipes are more complicated than I like to prepare on a day to day basis. However, Ms. Corriher is a consulting chemist and understands the science of food. The recipes are uniformly reliable and good, and the adice well worth heeding. Second, I would choose Julia Child's The Way to Cook. Again, much of what is in here is far more elaborate than I cook, but it is utterly reliable and has many good basic recipes. Third, I'd choose James Beard, again for its high reliability. James Beard's recipes are much more in the complexity (if not the calorie) range I cook in regularly.

Of course I probably have well over a hundred cookbooks -- from Ethnic (Chinese, Indian, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Eastern European to name a few), to specialized (Pizza, bread, desserts), to topical (like the above mentioned Gourmet Meals in 20 Minutes". And if you can get your hands on the old Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedia of Cooking, it's well worth having (although quite dated). However, a small number, along with my own scrapbooks, serve me day to day.


Food is uniquely both a necessity of life, and a form of culture and recreation. It's time more people start enjoying it more. It is also connects with other people, through the preserving the traditions of our parents and grandparents, and through the act of preparing and sharing food with others.


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The Pleasures of Cooking | 269 comments (258 topical, 11 editorial, 2 hidden)
Hey, (3.00 / 1) (#1)
by FredBloggs on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:10:39 PM EST

"People are rushed; we never seem to have enough time. We eat food that is fast to prepare, quick to eat, often while on the move in our car or walking down the street"

This article looks ok, but I`m a bit busy and have to go out. Someone please vote it up on my behalf when it etc etc

cooking therapeutic? (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by tps12 on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:13:21 PM EST

Cooking is the most stressful part of my life.

Really? (4.66 / 3) (#6)
by wiredog on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:15:43 PM EST

One of the reasons I cook, after the cost savings, is the relaxation factor. I go home from work and cook dinner and it relaxes me quite well.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]
Set aside more time (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by nosilA on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:16:13 PM EST

If you are in a rush to stir 3 pots at the same time while slicing onions and making sure whatever's in the oven doesn't burn, it can be stressful.  But if you set up your ingredients ahead of time and/or have a good helper, you can spend all your time concentrating on one task, which is usually theraputic.

Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

good helper (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by tps12 on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:19:23 PM EST

That's the problem. I usually have no helper or a kind of slave-driver thing going on. Also, I always burn myself or spill or break something.

[ Parent ]
Then more time (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by nosilA on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:21:43 PM EST

If you move pots slowly without needing to get them anywhere fast, you won't spill them.  You can chop all the ingredients before you need them so you aren't running back and forth.  A lot of counter space comes in handy here though.

I can't tell whether to infer from your post that you are cooking for yourself?  It is definitely much harder to cook for one than 2 or more (although when you have to cook for a huge group it gets stressful for other reasons).

Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

depends :) (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by tps12 on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:31:55 PM EST

I just tend to rush things a little. My comments regarding a helper were jokingly referring to the fact that usually I cook alone, but sometimes there is someone else I am cooking for who tends to stress me out more than help me. When I am cooking for 4 people or so, I am usually more relaxed, for some reason.

[ Parent ]
Cooking with another person (4.00 / 2) (#29)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:43:25 PM EST

I used to fight with my wife every time we cooked together. It's an area where its easy to have incompatibilities, especially if one person isn't clearly in charge. After fifteen years of marriage we now pretty much dance around each other, sometimes we take up tasks that one has to drop without saying a word.

[ Parent ]
Same here (4.33 / 3) (#38)
by /dev/niall on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:52:14 PM EST

I've heard folks on TV shows extol the magic of cooking with your significant other. Utter B.S., unless roles have been clearly defined and discussed in detail before hand.
There's nothing quite like holding a steaming pot of something and screaming "Get the $%^& out of my way!!" to your wife to really set the mood for a romantic evening at home.

-- 报告人对动物
[ Parent ]
Fighting and f***ing in the kitchen (5.00 / 2) (#158)
by unDees on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:47:48 PM EST

I think of the shared kitchen as sort of a litmus test for a relationship.

Girl I used to date--we didn't really respect each other, and it showed in the kitchen. She always had the urge to step in the middle of things and bark orders, even when I was the one who had been cooking the meal and therefore was in a better position to know what was going on. And for my part, I'm sure I was difficult to deal with when I shooed her out instead of explaining why I was doing what I was doing.

My wife and I have our share of kitchen arguments, but they usually resolve into jovial "No, I'm the better cook!" boasting. Our styles complement each other well (her spontaneity, my fussiness, her baking, my sauteeing), and we've learned to keep the eyes in the back of our head open so as to know when to jump out of the way of a hot pot comin' through.

Anybody puked yet?

Your account balance is $0.02; to continue receiving our quality opinions, please remit payment as soon as possible.
[ Parent ]

Beware Two Italians in One Kitchen (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by Xeriar on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:34:02 PM EST

My comments regarding a helper were jokingly referring to the fact that usually I cook alone, but sometimes there is someone else I am cooking for who tends to stress me out more than help me.

Maybe not entirely Italian related, but I know those of us with Italian blood in our veins tend to think of our kitchen time as OUR KITCHEN TIME and get a little defensive... :-)

When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.
[ Parent ]

Stir frying; casseroles; chili etc. (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:41:49 PM EST

It sounds like the logistical problems of preparing a meal composed of several dishes being cooked simultaneously is the problem. Try some more convenience oriented dishes like the ones noted in the title.

This is the problem with Hollandaise; the real thing is very easy to make, but you have to give it a few minutes of undivided quality time just before the meal. If you don't pay attention it will curdle. If the logistics aren't going to allow this at the last minute before the dinner is going on the table, I don't bother with it, or make the blender variety.

[ Parent ]

Use different cooking times (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by georgeha on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:35:04 PM EST

One of my easiest meals is squash, frozen stuffed chicken breasts and rice mix. The cooking times are about 40 minutes, 30 minutes and 25 minutes.

So, I prepare the squash, put it in the oven. I have 10 unhurried minutes to unwrap the chicken and put them in the oven, then 5 minutes to get the rice mix boiling.

[ Parent ]

Why is that? (none / 0) (#11)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:19:34 PM EST

Would you care to elaborate?

[ Parent ]
Tools (5.00 / 9) (#5)
by wiredog on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:13:29 PM EST

Julia's aiming to teach basic techniques there. Excellent.

I learned to cook from my mother. When she died I inherited her 2nd edition of Joy of Cooking, and her Julia Child French cookbooks. Since then I've picked up The Way to Cook, and the one she did with Jaques Pepin. Julia Child, the O'Reilly of the cooking world.

Joy is a great beginners book. The recipies may not be perfect, but they work well. Heck, I tweak the recipies in Julia's books.

Some magazines have lotsa good recipies in them. Sunset, for instance.

You need at least three knives. A short parer, a medium length general purpose (for boning, etc), and a serious 8 or 9 inch cooks knife, for the big stuff. Buy Real Knives, not the WalMart $40/set knives. If you can, get a real cleaver.

Wooden spoons, for stirring, and a wooden mallet for tenderizing meat.

Pots. A good enameled cast iron, or ceramic, pot that can go right on the range and then into the oven, for stews. One good cast iron skillet. (These can be had inexpensively at camping stores.)

Yard sales and estate sales can really pay off when outfitting the kitchen.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.

Excellent suggestions. (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:18:58 PM EST

I don't recommend against Joy. It's practically part of the American cultural heritage. Your list of tools is very well thought out -- how could I forget wooden spoons?

I have a mallet of course for meat; a Chinese cleaver can also work well for this purpose.

As far as the knives are concerned, I find Chicago Cutlery to be the equal of Wustoff or Henckels at a tiny fraction of the price, although they are a lot less pretty.

With respect to pans. I am not a big fan of non-stick. I like cast iron or stainless better. It takes a lot of money to get good non-stick pans, and they have to be treated carefully. It's really important to follow the directions and to avoid using high heat on a good non-stick pan, otherwise you get a nasty organic varnish that ruins the surface.

The yard sale suggestion was an excellent one for people who are starting out. You don't need commercial grade equipment to cook.

[ Parent ]

More tools (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by wiredog on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:26:23 PM EST

Just thinking about what's in my kitchen while writing the post. Which reminds me. A good mixer. Not the handheld kind, the kitchen maid kind. For cakes. I love a good pound cake. Ditto for cornbread. A variety of those tupperware (or equivalent) plastic storage things for freezing stews and for marinating. Stainless steel bowls for marinating, and crisping lettuce.

Bread Machines are Evil. They don't do sourdough.

My starter died a couple years ago, and I haven't found a good one around here. Sigh.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]

Mixers (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:36:30 PM EST

The kitchen aid style mixers, along with a cuisinart, are pretty much the only big applicances that really help in a big way. Actually, I'd say the mixer is even more useful -- the cuisinart I use mainly for pie crust, but boy does it help with that.

The kitchen aid mixers come in two sizes, normal, and an extra-big-and-powerful one. I like the normal size better -- I've never needed more than it could do, and it's a tad smaller.

[ Parent ]

We used Oetker yeast (3.00 / 1) (#75)
by georgeha on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:36:37 PM EST

for our starter, and it works pretty well, can you get it in your local Price-Chopper/grocery store?

[ Parent ]
Mine does, or so it says (none / 0) (#255)
by kestrel13 on Tue Jun 18, 2002 at 10:57:44 AM EST

The bread machine in my kitchen says it does sourdough. Has recipes for it and stuff. I've never tried it though, so I don't know if it works.

[ Parent ]
Another tool (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by /dev/niall on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:48:44 PM EST

Tongs! A good pair of tongs stirs, flips, mixes... No splattering or piercing when flipping. Don't know how I managed without mine.

-- 报告人对动物
[ Parent ]
I recomend (3.00 / 1) (#118)
by Altus on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:09:23 PM EST

 cheep non sitck pans.

of course you should have a variety of frying pans, I have....

1 huge stainless for making suace in.
1 medium sized stainless.
1 small crappy one that I fall back on when I need to just melt some butter.

2 cheep (less than $25 for the pair) teflon coated, one medium sized and one small

teflon coated are very usefull for some things, making breakfast is one of them.  sure, cheep ones dont last, but I will get 2-3 years out of the 2 that I have and they were only $25 or so, I will get more when I need them.

a cast Iron is also a must.
"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the money, then you get the women..." -H. Simpson
[ Parent ]

Knives (4.50 / 2) (#73)
by Bad Harmony on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:35:06 PM EST

Buy Real Knives, not the WalMart $40/set knives.

What's the difference between the two?

5440' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

No expert, but... (4.00 / 2) (#96)
by Jel on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:20:33 PM EST

I'm not sure how much of this applies to kitchen knifes -- I'd guess almost all of it, though -- I'm going from what I know of other knives, swords, etc.

Anyway, I'd say that the important things are a well-balanced knife, with a good handle, a good sharp strong blade, and a good tang.  If a knife feels comfortable and practical, that goes a long way -- it's probably by thoughtful design rather than by chance.

The tang -- the piece of metal which the handle "holds on to" -- is quite a good quality indication, especially for the inexperienced.  It should continue right THROUGH the handle, or at least almost through.  If you can't tell whether this is the case, forget that knife completely.  A good knife handle will be attached to it's tang with visible rivets which go right through the handle, on both sides.

I too would appreciate any more information experienced cooks might have on this.

[ Parent ]

You don't need the most expensive. (5.00 / 3) (#111)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:56:39 PM EST

But avoid the cheap ones. Cheap knives are almost always not sharp from day one, and don't hold an edge. They are ergonomically bad. You just don't need that many knives, so it makes sense to buy good ones and take care of them.

This doesn't mean you have spend a fortune. As I mentioned elsehwere, I own the top of the line Henckels Five Star and Wustoff, but the knives that give me the most satisfaction day in and out are the mid prices Chicago cutlery.

I'd start with a paring knife and a chef's knife, add another paring knife and a carving set, then add another paring knife and a chinese cleaver, then a serious meat cleaver and a bread slicer. That's it, you're done. Maybe a midsized chef's knife if you got a big one, or a big one if you have a midsize.

Finally, is is absolutely vital that you treat the knives with respect. I give it a few licks on the steel before I use it, and when I am done with it I immediately wash it, dry it, and put it in the block. For knives that go in the drawer, I have a plastic guard (pretty much just my huge cleaver these days). Things not to do: throw it in the sink under a bunch of suds and then toss the silverware on top to soak. For one thing I don't want to reach in and cut myself -- like like my knives sharp.

[ Parent ]

Real vs. fake knives (4.00 / 1) (#133)
by libertine on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:36:30 PM EST

Real knives hold an edge, and are made out of thicker and better steel.

"Fake" knives are made out of an aluminum alloy, and are usually cerrated even when they don't need to be.  Knives with small cerrations are impossible to sharpen.

Someone can stand a very likely chance of injury using flimsy or dull knives.  People tend to exert more force to use them, and when mistakes happen, the errors are more drastic.

Funny thing is, Henckel now makes a *slightly* lower end knife, almost as good as the ones you get in high end shops, for less then $40 for an entire set with sharpener and storing block.  Costco carries them in the US.  You can also order online, AFAIK.

"Live for lust. Lust for life."
[ Parent ]

The difference (none / 0) (#185)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 12:46:28 AM EST

1. Holds an edge. Cheap knives are stamped from a metal sheet, they don't hold an edge too good. It'll be duller than a good knife unless you sharpen it after every cut, and you won't.

2. Good balance. You have to be able to operate it effortlessly and masterfully, if you cook every day or even every week, it's worth the extra pennies.

3. Comfortable & solid handle. A cheap one will soon break and you have to buy a new knife. A good knife can be used literally for generations.

4. Pins that hold the handle to the blade. They shouldn't fall off if you forget the knife soaking in water.

All in all, considering just how central the knife is to your cooking activities, I think it's worth to pay at least $50 for a good large chef's knife and $25 for a good paring knife. If you're on a budget save on some other stuff, a knife is the first thing.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]

Forged vs. stamped (none / 0) (#186)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 12:48:19 AM EST

Forgot to mention this: the good knives are forged, not stamped. THat's what makes them hold an edge much better. It's very hard to detect, so if you're not an expert, I guess your only bet is to buy from a reputable maker, like henckels or global, or wusthoff.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
I actually hate cooking (3.50 / 2) (#12)
by theboz on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:19:50 PM EST

It's not really the cooking that bothers me, but the buying groceries to make sure I have the right stuff, and the washing of dishes. I get annoyed having to prepare a week in advance for a meal and then needing to clean up afterwards.

This is one reason I am glad to be getting married soon. It's easier to do when you have more than one person that you can split the work up with. The cooking part can be easy and fun, but the crap associated with it is a pain.


Washing dishes, yes, shopping no (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by nosilA on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:24:20 PM EST

I just make a habit of stopping at the grocery store on my way home from work any picking up whatever I need.  It certainly helps that my boyfriend is at home telling me what we have, but I could do this without his help.  The cleaning sucks though, I'll fully agree with that.

Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

Clean as you go (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by wiredog on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:28:02 PM EST

When I'm done with a particular implement I clean it right away. That way when I'm finished eating, there's only a few dishes to do.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]
depends what you do (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by nosilA on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:33:41 PM EST

I frequently stir-fry, since it's fast and easy.  You end up with everything in the same disgusting wok at the end, and it's very hard to clean.  This is where I get lazy, and my kitchen starts smelling...

Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

Wok Brush (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by The Solitaire on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:42:16 PM EST

Do you have a bamboo wok brush? I use mine all the time. I have a carbon-steel wok, so if I don't wash and dry it right away, it rusts. The wok brush is great, because it gets all the food bits off, without wrecking the season. With a steel wok, the seasoning is very important. If you lose the season, everything sticks, and stir-frying properly becomes impossible.

Of course, I don't know what a wok brush would do to one of them new-fangled teflon coated woks...

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

Hmm (3.00 / 1) (#40)
by nosilA on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:01:17 PM EST

I should get one.  I also need to replace my wok becuase I got a really cheap non-stick wok which has lost most of its non-stick-ness.  Do you have any tips for what to look for in a wok?

Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

Woks (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by The Solitaire on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:14:56 PM EST

I'm not really a wok expert, by any stretch of the imagination. I have a cheap, carbon-steel wok that serves my purposes reasonably well. However, I've rusted it a couple of times, and that means scouring with steel wool and reseasoning. That is a pain in the ass to say the least. Probably easier to stick with a stainless steel one.

The thing to remember is that the type of wok you use depends on the heating element you have. If you are using an electric element, use a flat-bottom wok. That allows for better heat transfer. If you use gas (lucky!), get a round bottom wok. There's a ring attachment that you put underneath to keep it stable. I've only tried stir-frying on a glass top once, and it didn't work well at all. However, that could be as much my incompetance as anything else.

I've tried using a flat-bottom with gas before, and I don't really recommend it. The bottom of the wok gets too hot, and the rest doesn't heat properly.

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

ooh (3.00 / 1) (#58)
by nosilA on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:20:23 PM EST

Yeah, I have electric, but I hadn't thought of a round wok.  I'm going to spend too much money on kitchen stuff this weekend, but that's okay, it saves me money in the long run.

Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]

Round wok (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:58:22 PM EST

If you have gas, a round wok is the way to go.

I have and use an electric skillet which I like a great deal, but I've yet to see an electric wok I'd want to cook in. It doesn't get hot enough, and a non-stick surface just doesn't work for that kind of cooking.

By the way, if you've ever been inside a chinese restaurant, the real thing is pretty impressive -- something like ten concentric rings of gas. These things get hot. The woks themselves are massive. The guys who chow in them all day long get powerful forearms and heat impervious hands.

[ Parent ]

I love electric skilets. (3.00 / 1) (#115)
by Altus on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:04:39 PM EST

The one I used to have before it gave up the ghost was way bigger than anything else I owned and it didnt take up stove space,  I could cook chicken marsala for a dozen people in that thing.... and mixed with a stove top solution I could probalby cook for quite a few more

"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the money, then you get the women..." -H. Simpson
[ Parent ]

Braising (3.00 / 1) (#122)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:14:48 PM EST

Electric skillets are the perfect tool for braising. Wonderful for things like pork chops; you braise them and then you add sour cream and parika at the end.

[ Parent ]
Wok rusting (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:20:39 PM EST

I always take a paper towel and rub some peanut oil into my carbon steel wok after scraping it clean. It only rust when I leave it in the sink overnight.

[ Parent ]
a good handle (4.00 / 2) (#76)
by persimmon on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:39:07 PM EST

If it's a sturdy-looking steel with nice firm handles and a lid, it's probably fine, esp. if you found it at an asian grocery.

The classic advice is flat-bottomed for electric stoves and round for gas, but if you're already stuck with one it can go either way.

Make sure it has a lid. It's a pain finding one that fits, um, aftermarket. If you want the full repertoire of wok activities, get a steaming rack and a basket strainer for frying. Avoid that non-stick shit like the plague. There's billions of guides to seasoning your wok; just follow one of them and it'll be fine.
So There.
[ Parent ]

Depends on how often you do it (5.00 / 2) (#42)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:01:32 PM EST

It's like a lot of things; if you do it rarely, it is a major production requiring planning and preparation. For peole who cook daily, it takes practically no preparation. Part of this is how well stocked you are; if you have no food in the house, you are going to have to go out and get stapels like flour and coffee when you have somebody over for a meal. If you cook all the time, you know what you have on hand and can pretty much guess what you need without doing an inventory.

It's about 80% being habitutally prepared, 20% skill. My father was a professional chef. When he retired he used to cook Sunday dinner -- a very, very elaborate Sunday dinner. He had eight children; any body could invite as many people over as they wanted without telling him in advance. By some feat of professional chef magic, he could cook for five and have practically no leftovers, or twenty-five and stuff them all, with no frantic running out to the store at the last minute.

[ Parent ]

Several times I've seen TV programs where a... (4.00 / 2) (#162)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:15:49 PM EST

...chef sings the praises of home cooking. "Why microwave an instant dinner? In the time it takes to do that you can have a stir-fried meal with fresh ingredients!" And then the Chef proceeds to take the ingredients that have been both bought and chopped already and after the meal is cooked we see nobody washing dishes. Sure, it takes 5 minutes to stir-fry great food when someone else does all the work!
[ Parent ]
Uhmm... (none / 0) (#193)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:11:38 AM EST

If you microwave something, correct me if I'm totally off my rocker here, but don't you also have to buy it and then clean dishes and forks after it? Chopping is what, like, 30 seconds?
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Intermediary dishes. (none / 0) (#213)
by Trepalium on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 07:13:43 PM EST

When you cook something yourself, there's generally a number of intermediary dishes and utensils you have to use before eating it. When you microwave something, geneally you're cooking it on the dish it will be eaten from. Cooking show chefs also have a tendancy to use "exotic" tools in preparation of their "simple" meals. Or things completely insane, like using fresh pasta in this "simple" meal. I saw one show where the goal was to make a meal for under $100 -- the final price was $81, and there were 6 people eating. Completely ABSURD.

[ Parent ]
But *you* don't have to do that. (none / 0) (#214)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 07:25:52 PM EST

I personally always cook without using any extra dishes. I do have to clean the sauce pan and the steamer insert and um.. the cutting board and knives. But all of that takes a minute, tops - hardly a back-breaking labor in stalinist gulag :-). Besides, you're making something nice for yourself, it's almost a pleasure to do a bit of clean-up work. You know, I recently got into a habit of meditating a few times a day for a few minutes, and I find that a small clean-up job has the same soothing, relaxing effect. You just have to do it calmly, without rushing and without negative emotions like awwh, shit, I wish I were in roman empire and had a few slaves to do this dirty crap for me.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Some of this is good habits (none / 0) (#221)
by jolly st nick on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 10:23:11 AM EST

When you're swimming along nicely, you need take a little of that energy and clean up as you go, rather than wait until the cooking is done, the meal eaten, and the guests departed.

My dad was a professional chef, and when he was done cooking a home meal, the kitchen looked exactly like it did when he started.

[ Parent ]

Professional chefs are different. (none / 0) (#222)
by jolly st nick on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 10:28:32 AM EST

It's like Adam Smith's pin factory -- each task is done in a specialized and repetitive way. Even if you are the lone chef, you do lots and lots of prep work so that whether the customer orders dish A or B, all you have to do is the finishing steps.

Home cooks can easily rival the quality of a professional chef, but seldom the efficient profesional habits. To the professional chef the stir fry is amere nothing, because he looks at it as marginal effort.

But to some degree the occaisional home cook stands in the same relation to the habitual one that the habitual one stands to the pro. In my household we frequently "whip together" stir fries that are practically effortless, becasue we have everything on hand.

[ Parent ]

You need energy (none / 0) (#192)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:09:48 AM EST

You get energy from good food. Then it won't be hard to prepare it. But you have to start making it, first, otherwise you don't have the energy to start making it to have the energy to start making it, it's really a while 1: loop.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Heh... (none / 0) (#199)
by theboz on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 10:02:00 AM EST

Sounds a lot like exercise too. You have to be willing to suffer at first then it gets easier. Still, I am getting married soon so I'll wait for that. I won't really need to cook then. :o)

[ Parent ]

Food and Stress (4.66 / 3) (#17)
by The Solitaire on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:24:34 PM EST

I can't agree with you more. As a graduate student, I'm usually very busy with my thesis work and the like. I find research very stressful and time consuming, and eventually, I'm just a ball of stress.

That's where cooking comes in. I invite a few people over and cook a giant curry. It's a fairly slow process - definately not fast-food, but it's almost meditative. I find afterward, I'm much more focused, less stressed, and most of all well-fed. I can usually work much more efficiently. I highly recommend cooking as a stress relief strategy for anyone out there.

It's funny how I got into cooking. I worked at a restaraunt for a while, as a line cook. That just about soured me on cooking forever. Talk about high-stress, mindless activity. Quite a while later, I moved into a great big house that usually had 10-15 people living in it. We affectionately referred to it as "The Commune". Really, in a sense, it was communal living. We shared all of the expenses pretty much equally. Anyways, basically *nobody* knew how to cook at all. I had an idea from working at the restaraunt (although that was pretty much paint-by-numbers cooking), so I was designated "house cook". That meant that I had to learn, and learn how to cook in *quantity*. After serving a meal to everyone and recieving major compliments about how good it was, I was hooked on cooking permenently. Now I host big meals as often as possible, to relive the experience, if nothing else.

Hmmm... all this talking about food is making me hungry. I think it'll be some kind of omlette for lunch today.

I need a new sig.

Onion Chopping Tips, to Avoid Crying (4.33 / 3) (#20)
by wiredog on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:30:55 PM EST

Put it in the fridge to cool down before chopping. Use a good and sharp knife. These two tips cut down on the amount of onion juice that gets sprayed about.

A final tip, learned from Mom, that I haven't seen in any cookbook. Wear ski goggles (with a clear, untinted lens) while chopping onions. Eliminates the crying completely.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.

Sharp knife (4.00 / 3) (#23)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:33:31 PM EST

When cutting onions, you want a knife that is scalpel sharp; as you noted its the bruising of the onion that sprays the juice. I hadn't heard the refrigerator tip -- that's a good one.

If you've seen the movie Diva, one of the characters wheres a scuba mask and snorkel when cutting onions.

[ Parent ]

Use a steel. (4.00 / 2) (#56)
by Iesu II on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:20:05 PM EST

It doesn't have to be one of those murder-weapon-looking steels. Just get one of the little steels (not a sharpener) with two rods set at angles in a block. Just whip your knife through it a few times before you cut anything and it'll stay sharp for a heck of a long time. Make sure it's a steel and not a sharpener. The former shapes metal, the latter removes metal.

[ Parent ]

Also use technique. (4.00 / 1) (#81)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:53:05 PM EST

If you have a sharp knife, then you can use the proper slicing action. It doesn't completely elimiate the tears, but it reduces them drastically. Many people who are accustomed to dull knives, or perhaps grew up with them, have learned bad habits. You can take the back end of a kitchen knife and chop and onion with a crushing motion, but you are going to get lots of atomized onion juice.

[ Parent ]
Cutting Onions (4.00 / 2) (#26)
by The Solitaire on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:38:01 PM EST

Also, if the knife is wet, it helps as well. The chemical that stings your eyes is water soluble. I even know someone that cuts them in the sink, with the water on. No more tears!

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

Cutting in the sink (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:44:21 PM EST

I wouldn't do this, because I like to be comfortable when I cut. It probably depends on your height.

[ Parent ]
Cutting boards (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by The Solitaire on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:46:44 PM EST

One way to make things a bit better is to get a cutting board that fits over your sink. I have one that I got really cheap at ikea. Turns your sink into one more bit of counter space.

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

Breathing (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by /dev/niall on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:45:13 PM EST

Breath through your mouth, not your nose. Actually helps quite a bit. Most important tip is to use a sharp knife (as another poster mentioned).

I wouldn't put any vegetable in the fridge unless it's absolutely necessary. Ruins the taste.

-- 报告人对动物
[ Parent ]

If you're crazy and have the equipment (4.00 / 2) (#41)
by MFS on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:01:25 PM EST

you can cut onions under a fine mist/spray of water. The water droplets help keep the aromatics from the onions from getting to your eyes and nose.

Mind you, I'm a freak that like to chop onions, even the nasty white ones. They've never bothered my eyes all that much. This coming from the guy who is known to eat raw lemons and limes, too...

Nope, not me. I must be someone else.
[ Parent ]

contacts (4.00 / 2) (#44)
by tps12 on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:05:09 PM EST

Friends with contact lenses tell me they don't get onion tears at all.

[ Parent ]
Options (4.50 / 2) (#84)
by jabber on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:01:03 PM EST

I've seen several different ways of avoiding crying when cutting onions. They all work to varying degrees. As with everything, there is no silver bullet.
  • keep a lit candle near-by
  • keep a toothpick between your teeth and breathe though your mouth (for some reason this is supposed to change how you breathe)
  • use a butcher's knife that's as wide as the onion
  • use a wet knife
  • cut the onion under water
None of these are convincing to me. But:

* Use a food processor or slicer to get the job done quickly

works very well for me.

Of course my favorite is

* Get your SO to cut the onion for you.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

heh (5.00 / 2) (#90)
by /dev/niall on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:06:28 PM EST

Get your SO to cut the onion for you.

heh. Not bloody likely. ;)

-- 报告人对动物
[ Parent ]

Ah hell (4.00 / 2) (#97)
by jabber on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:22:39 PM EST

You can't blame a guy for trying though, can you?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Are y'all mad?? ;) (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by Jel on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:03:33 PM EST

It's easy.  Open the window.  Fresh air dilutes the fumes ;)

[ Parent ]
Seasons (none / 0) (#243)
by wiredog on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 07:57:03 AM EST

In winter it's too damn cold to open the window. Summer it's too hot.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]
avoiding tearing (3.00 / 1) (#140)
by bretb on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:52:51 PM EST

I've found the best way to not tear up when cutting onions is just to chop fast enough to avoid all the onion juices. Most of the stuff that makes you cry is in the middle anyways, so, cut fast and clean.

of course, this just takes practice..

[ Parent ]

Close your eyes during and just after each cut (3.00 / 1) (#144)
by Artifice on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:09:43 PM EST

...because what causes most of the tearing is microscopic droplets of onion juice in the air.  Of course you need to position the knife correctly before slicing, so you don't lose a finger!

How are your shares of Worldcom doing? Find out with the Enron Memorial Real-Time Stock Monitor!
[ Parent ]
Underwater (3.00 / 1) (#175)
by Colol on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 09:48:51 PM EST

If onions are really a problem, you can also cut them in a small dish of cool water. I haven't tried it, as they don't bother me, but I have a friend who swears by it.

[ Parent ]
bah (5.00 / 1) (#226)
by MicroBerto on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 01:40:48 PM EST

I see everyone's tips for chopping onions, and I disagree with everyone. I say BRING THE PAIN! Being the onion lover that I am lately, the sensation of cutting onion is pleasureful to me!

It's a fight between you and the onion -- you're going to eat him up, and he wants to make you cry. But if you can desensitize yourself from his only true weapon, then you have gained complete onion domination, and your food will be that much better!

- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]

Great Article (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by dr zeus on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:45:38 PM EST

I love to cook, once I get started. Actually getting off the computer or away from the TV is the hardest part for me. When I'm in the kitchen, I get in a really good mood, sing to myself a little. My wife thinks it's hilarious, but I enjoy it. I especially like to bake bread. Forget a bread machine, they're a pain. It's so much easier to mix the dough yourself and bake it in the oven, and you feel like you accomplished something when it's done. I have to say that cleaning up is the worst part. ugh.

Bread machines (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:48:05 PM EST

As I said, I use mine for making dough; I don't like the crust it makes. It's convenient when I'm doing several things at once and cuts down on cleanup tremendously.

However, I find a good mixer like a Kitchen-aid with a dough hook is almost as convenient and also cuts down on cleanup tremendously.

I also like to mix half my dry ingredients into a yeast bread and to let it ferment for an hour as a wet solution. It gives a yeastier flavor that I like. Naturally, the bread machine gives me no such option.

[ Parent ]

Vegetarian cooking? (3.00 / 1) (#36)
by kestrel13 on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:51:03 PM EST

I don't get to cook very much being a college student on a meal plan, but I like to do it and plan to do a lot of it when I have my own place. I cook more when I'm home for the summer like now, because I'm vegetarian and the rest of my family is not. Does anyone know of a good basic vegetarian cookbook? Most of the ones I've found are too fancy, gourmet, or just plain weird for everyday cooking. I would like one that tells me how to make healthy basic vegetarian meals, so that I get all the required nutrients and whatever without meat.

Molly Katzen (4.00 / 2) (#47)
by /dev/niall on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:07:17 PM EST

Molly Katzen's books have excellent dishes that are easy to prepare. We usually about 10% of the garlic she does though. ;)

We also have a copy of "Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone", which is a pretty big one. To be completely honest, I've never found anything in it that I'd be bothered to make.

rec.food.recipes and rec.food.veg.cooking are good places to go to.

-- 报告人对动物
[ Parent ]

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (4.50 / 2) (#53)
by Iesu II on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:15:39 PM EST

I have a copy (it's by Deborah Madison iirc); it's pretty pretentious in terms of suggested spices, ingredients (i.e., saffron and Fontina instead of salt and cheddar). In spite of that, the recipes are all pretty easy to follow and I've yet to have one turn out bad. They've all tasted great, particularly the butternut squash gratin (casserole). She also has a great recipe for whole-wheat focaccia bread.

If you don't mind the pretensions it's an awesome book.

[ Parent ]

Second for VCFE (3.00 / 1) (#109)
by gte910h on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:51:11 PM EST

After the first round of buying "odd" spices, its really not that much more expensive then "pepper and cheddar". Its very good at teaching technique and principles as well.

[ Parent ]
Her later books are best (4.50 / 4) (#54)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:17:40 PM EST

Katzen's Still life with recipes -- superb! Worth having for anyone, vegetarian or not.

Many people who have had the classic Moosewood cookbook have found that the recipes tend to come out, as one person I know put it, "weird tasting vegetable shit". I wouldn't go that far, but it's definitely a hippie cuisine book.

[ Parent ]

Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook is great (4.00 / 1) (#155)
by Artifice on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:37:15 PM EST

My wife and I are garlic fiends, so we love her garlic levels. But I find her stuff is undersalted to my taste; I usually add more than she suggests.

Note: don't be confused by the "Moosewood Restaurant" cookbooks.  These are published by the restaurant she founded, but they have nothing to do with her, and are (as far as I can tell) making a quick buck off the reputation of her original cookbook. No idea if their recipes are any good.

How are your shares of Worldcom doing? Find out with the Enron Memorial Real-Time Stock Monitor!
[ Parent ]

Vegetarian Epicure is good, Small Planet (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by georgeha on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:31:08 PM EST

You can even get it used from Amazon for about $3. It has a phenomenal Spicy Sweet Potato Pie, if you want to spice up Thanksgiving, a good Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese (with fontina, asiago and two other obscure cheeses), and an amusing hippie ethos.

The Small Planet cookbooks (Diet for a Small Planet, Recipes for a Small Planet) has a nifty recipes, and pointers on making yogurt. I made very good nut seed patties from there.

[ Parent ]

Diet for a Smal Planet (3.00 / 1) (#137)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:46:31 PM EST

if I recall, has a recipie for a curried soybean and rice salad which is completely awesome.

[ Parent ]
anything by bryanna clark grogan (3.00 / 1) (#78)
by turmeric on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:44:51 PM EST

www.vegsource.com she does the beginners page

[ Parent ]
while we're at it (3.00 / 1) (#103)
by persimmon on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:42:43 PM EST

Laurel's Kitchen is a Western vegetarian classic, and has plenty of information on making sure you get the appropriate nutrients. These days I think there's an updated version with less hippie flavour ;(
So There.
[ Parent ]

Student's Vegetarian Cookbook (4.00 / 1) (#143)
by willpost on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:06:05 PM EST

Quick, easy, cheap, and tasty.

Online Guide to Vegetarian Restaurants Around the World:

Vegan Lifestyle, Vegetarian Dining, Health,
Animal Rights, Non-Violence, Sustainable Living
(Click on recipes tab to skip the political posts)

Double check to make sure you get proper nutrition too.

[ Parent ]

Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone (none / 0) (#245)
by nebben123 on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 09:36:11 AM EST

My favorites...

"Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone"
by Deborah Madison

"From the Earth, Chinese Vegetarian Cooking"
by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

[ Parent ]

Vegetarian times magazine.. (none / 0) (#247)
by gatekeep on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 12:49:04 PM EST

You can't go wrong with Vegetarian times. They've got a ton of great recipes every month, and best of all, they usually have seasonal twists to them. in the summer you'll have a feature on outdoor vegetarian cooking with lots of great grill recipes, during the holidays there'll be articles and recipes about alternatives to turkey and ham based feasts. I've been a vegetarian for about 14 months now, and this magazine has been a wonderful resource. The thing that amazes me most about giving up meat is that it's not that hard. You have to think a little bit more about food, and I certainly cook more, but it's really pretty simple once you get used to it. The author of this story kind of sums up the 'cooking yourself is generally healthy and better' aspect of things. I've certainly found that to be a nice bonus of not eating meat.

[ Parent ]
Yep. (none / 0) (#254)
by kestrel13 on Tue Jun 18, 2002 at 10:54:09 AM EST

A friend of mine gets that, sometimes we make dinner for ourselves out of it. Good stuff. I don't get it yet because trying to maintain magazine subscriptions when your place of residence changes twice a year is obnoxious since my college won't forward anything but 1st class mail. Certainly plan to though, after next year.

[ Parent ]
Yay, thanks people. (none / 0) (#256)
by kestrel13 on Tue Jun 18, 2002 at 11:02:00 AM EST

*writes everything down to take to the library next time she goes*

[ Parent ]
The Cook's Bible (5.00 / 3) (#37)
by Iesu II on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:52:11 PM EST

...by Christopher Kimball is my favourite cookbook. I recommend it to all geeks because he writes as much why as he does how and what. Great recipes too, and they're all pretty bulletproof. Often if a recipe is easily adjustable, he'll give some variations and tips on customizing it. His magazine Cook's Illustrated is also amazing; great hand-drawn illustrations and no ads!

Quickie review.

Seconded. (5.00 / 1) (#107)
by tmoertel on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:47:34 PM EST

The folks at Cooks' Illustrated do great work. When they explain how to make a dish, say something "simple" like macaroni and cheese, they don't just provide a recipe, they describe what makes great macaroni and cheese great, provide a page or two of insight on different cooking approaches and the results of each (drawn from their numerous kitchen tests), and then provide a reliable, tested "master recipe" that actually is simple yet produces fabulous results. And then they top it with similarly well-tested variations of the master recipes.

The introductory material is something I wish other cookbooks would provide. It helps you understand the reasoning behind the recipes so that you can make better decisions about how to modify the recipe for your tastes, on-hand ingredients, and so forth. Plus, you just know these folks are in to cooking when you read stuff like this:

After making the dish with Vermont, New York, and Wisconsin cheddars, we preferred the less sharp Wisconsin variety. Because the recipe calls for such a large quantity, a slightly milder cheese is preferable. Further testing confirmed this point. Macaroni and cheese made the Gruyere was so strong we couldn't even eat it. To our surprise, highly processed cheeses like American performed quite well in this dish. Much like evaporated milk, the more processing, the more stable the cheese and the more creamy the dish. For flavor, use cheddar; for texture, buy American. We also found the dish did not suffer when prepared with only 12 ounces of cheese as opposed to the pound called for in the original recipe.
The CI treatment of Macaroni and Cheese provides ten additional paragraphs like this, each loaded with insights into the dish. For a ten-minute investment in reading, you will be richly rewarded in cooking wisdom.

I have about five years' of Cooks' Illustrated magazines as well as three CI cookbooks, including The Cook's Bible and The Best Recipe, both of which I highly recommend. I have often cooked recipes from the latter "blind" for groups of forty to eighty people, and never once has the book let me down, even on tricky dishes like bread pudding.

If you haven't checked out CI, do so.

My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]

[ Parent ]
Great article! But... (4.75 / 4) (#39)
by /dev/niall on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:59:35 PM EST

... I sort of disagree with your take on recipes.

Baking, in my opinion, is chemistry. If you don't follow the recipe exactly, the results could be drastically different from what you are trying to achieve. Most of the time you can get excellent results by following baking recipes to the letter (once you figure out how your oven works... ).

Cooking other dishes, however, I would suggest folks follow a recipe *once*, and then never follow the recipe again. The recipe will never match your tastes, and the chances that your oven will cook the meal properly in the amount of time specified in a recipe are slim to none. Screwing up a recipe will often teach you far more about cooking than getting it right (as long as you are willing to eat your mistakes ;)), and there's nothing more satisfying than getting it right on your own terms.

I would also count a pair of tongs and a good thermometer among my most important tools. I still have to get a good thermometer myself.

-- 报告人对动物

Following recipes (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:05:58 PM EST

This kind of gets into accomplishment #2 -- feeding yourself and family. Once you can play your musical scales and chords correctly, you can begin to improvise. Once you can handle recipes correctly, you will know when you can improvise or substitute, or when you don't have what's on hand.

Cakes are fairly scientific, but yeast breads allow for a lot of slop. Bread flour varies quite a bit in protein content, and the amount of water it will handle. You can also insert all kinds of fun stuff into cake batter, you just don't want to mess with the delicate balance of proteins and sugar.

[ Parent ]

Recipe Experimentation (5.00 / 3) (#46)
by The Solitaire on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:06:12 PM EST

One thing that I would like to add to that, is that when you start experimenting with a recipe (something that I highly encourage), remember what you changed!! Write it down or something, just in case it turns out really good.

I made a curry (something that I am very fond of making) one time, varying the recipe as I do every time. What emerged that day was fantastic - I mean really, really good. Everyone was gobbling it up like crazy. But I forgot what it was that I did! Since then, I've been desparately trying to re-create that one dish, to no avail. What's even stranger was that I don't remember doing anything all that different from my usual.

Frustrating, to say the least.

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

Circumstance (3.50 / 2) (#94)
by dark on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:13:01 PM EST

It's not always the food that makes a meal good :) I remember the best pizza I ever had. It was a weird one with a baked egg on it and (I think) ground beef. I washed it down with a Heineken, something I normally wouldn't drink. It was around 4 am in a greasy pizza place and I'd been drinking and playing darts all night. (Warning: not a safe combination). It was heavenly.

I later went back to the same place and ordered that pizza again, but it just wasn't the same. Something about that night just worked out just right.

[ Parent ]
circumstance part II (4.00 / 1) (#201)
by calimehtar on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 10:39:14 AM EST

It's not just how you eat it, but also how you cook it. I've found I can remember every ingredient that went into that perfect stir-fry but I can never never get the proportions or the quality of those ingredients exactly right. Like sex and guitar solos, I find I can never quite repeat my most sucessful culinary experiments.

[ Parent ]
yes and no (5.00 / 3) (#61)
by persimmon on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:22:27 PM EST

I had a muffin recipe once that I couldn't kill. I used applesauce instead of the liquid, left out the sweetener, added all sorts of fruit, and it always rose, because I never managed to interfere with the baking-powder rising mechanism. I've made great batches of soda-raised bread, with no recipe, because I knew how the rise for default soda bread works and could improvise from that.

It does depend what you're cooking; if you decide your brownie recipe is too sweet and leave out a cup of sugar, it'll taste fine but won't get that shiny glazed look on top. If you beat your eggs wrong, don't be surprised if your cake falls.

If you know what all the ingredients in your recipe are doing (flavour, structure, rise, and probababy some others I'm forgetting), then once you have a sort of working vocabulary, vocabulary, you can substitute and improvise with impunity. It entertains the occasional failure, but it's a lot more fun not being tied to a recipe, or running out for one ingredient because you feel you have to follow the recipe slavishly.
So There.
[ Parent ]

Falling cakes (5.00 / 2) (#69)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:33:55 PM EST

It's very, very important not to overbeat cake batter. You do want to sift flour well, and cream butter and sugar thoroughly, but once the flour is mixed with the liquid you have to handle it with kid gloves.

I've found this out the hard way.

[ Parent ]

Seconded! (none / 0) (#228)
by Chalky on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 04:03:46 PM EST

You want to fold in the flour very gently, and use a metal spoon instead of a wooden one.  Especially if you are making a classical Victoria sponge.

[ Parent ]
Not following recipes (4.00 / 1) (#163)
by William Rees on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:17:02 PM EST

As backwards as this sounds, the best cookbook for breaking recipes is the Blue Strawberry Cookbook. It's old and maybe out of print. The cookbook talks about the basic categories of ingredients: flours, sweeteners, binders, etc.. It then goes into how the different categories work together. Last, it shows you how to break the rules first by substitution and then by instinct. A great book.

[ Parent ]
Kind of... (none / 0) (#203)
by broonie on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 10:58:47 AM EST

The thing about repeating recipies isn't as much about trying to get to a good starting point as anything else - when you're cooking something unfamilar (and if you don't cook much the chances are that pretty much all the things you cook will be unfamiliar) then it's very easy to mess things up particularly if you diverge too much from the recipie. If you're in that sort of situation then it's worth persevering with a recipie until you get it to produce something you like before you start doing variations on the theme.

[ Parent ]
Cooking the perfect white sauce (4.33 / 3) (#43)
by scatbubba on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:04:13 PM EST

since i love cooking, i shall share a little. A rich, creamy, tasty white sauce is a dream, and it's easier then you might think. Heres how it goes:

1) Get 2 beer, and a great jazz (or any music you like) CD. Play the CD, open the beer. Drink
2) Heat 2 table spoons (T) of olive oil in a frying pan, wok, whatever. Set the heat at medium
3) Add one chopped onion. The onion must be stirred frequently. You don't want it to brown. It's done when the onions appear translucent.
4) Add one chopped green (or red or yellow) bell pepper, and 4 chopped garlic cloves (or less if you prefer). Cook this for a while. How long? 5 or 10 minutes
4.5) Open second beer. Drink. 5) Next (and this is the key), add 2.5 T of flour. Browning the flour is the key to a good white sauce. Stir frequently, and cook til the flour is browned.
6) Add Milk. 2.5 cups should do it. Add salt 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Let it simmer until thick. Taste the sauce to ensure there is no flour taste. If there is, simmer a little longer.

Thats all there is. From this basic start, you have endless options. Instead of just bell pepper, add chopped carrots, celery, whatever. Any vegitable should do. Serve over any pasta you like. To make super mac&cheese, add the sauce, cooked mac, and 1 cup of cheedar to a baking dish, mix, sprinkle some (1/2 cup or so) parmesian on top, cook 25 minutes @ 400 and you are the king of mac&cheese. Thats all i have to say.

White Sauce (4.00 / 2) (#49)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:12:03 PM EST

White sauce is out of favor today with people worried about the carbohydrate content of food. However it is well worth mastering since it is the key to making a varity of dishes and is a flexible elemnt in basic cooking improvisation. It binds things, makes them rich, and the fat buffers and smooths the bite of fat soluble.

The key to a good white sauce is, as you noted, to cook the flour well. Uncooked flour has a strong and objectionable taste; cooking it as you suggest will give it a pleasant nutty flavor.

I have two things I like to add to white sauce. First, is a splash of pepper sauce. You can make it hot if you wish, but even when I don't want it spicy, I'll add a kind of subliminal dash of tabasco. Just enough to perk it up, but not enough to be identified.

Another thing I routinely add is a pinch of nutmeg. I use it just the way I do with tabasco -- not so its overpowering, but enough to make it seem like something interesting is going on.

[ Parent ]

nice (3.00 / 1) (#60)
by scatbubba on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:22:17 PM EST

I'll try both of those. I've never considered making my white sauce spicy, but maybe i should try that. until now, only tomatoe based things get the spice.

[ Parent ]
Go easy at first (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:29:37 PM EST

Just start by giving it a tiny amount of zip before you go for the seven alarm effect. Start with a few drops and work your way up.

White sauce works well with this because the fat can buffer the fat soluble flavors. It converts a mule kick of spice into a long sustained release of flavor. You don't want to overpower this.

[ Parent ]

Roux (4.00 / 2) (#65)
by Iesu II on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:27:14 PM EST

Browning flour in fat is called a roux. Traditional white sauces use butter for the fat. This tastes a hell of a lot better and will kill you much faster. I always use butter, myself. :)

[ Parent ]
Julia (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:31:38 PM EST

Julia Child is older than the hills, and aside from the problems of being a tall, elderly woman, pretty darn healthy for a woman her age. You can be darned sure she was never scared of a little butter.

[ Parent ]
Heh! (4.66 / 3) (#74)
by Iesu II on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:36:23 PM EST

She also drank like a fish and smoked cigars. Julia Child is my hero.

[ Parent ]
My aunt called Julia out of the blue... (4.50 / 2) (#171)
by Bear Cub on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 08:04:41 PM EST

It's been a few years since I heard this story, but I think it went something like this:

My aunt was helping a couple of friends make dinner one evening, and they couldn't figure out a good deserts to go with the meal. So, being the stoned and hungry grad students that they were, they just looked up Julia Child in the phone book and gave her a call. She was extremely ammused that someone had called her on a whim, and came up with a brownie recipe or something off the top of her head.

So yeah, Julia rocks.

------------------------------------- Bear Cub now posts as Christopher.
[ Parent ]

Fannie Farmer Cookbook (4.66 / 3) (#51)
by libertine on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:14:02 PM EST

I've found Fannie Farmer good for improving my overall cooking skills, and it has a ton of well-written recipies.  It is based largely upon the The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, which was the first US cookbook to use standardized weights, measures, and methodologies (AFAIK).  But back to Fannie Farmer- it is incredible.  Gives great base recipies and advice for most meals.  Even has directions for making a BLT.

"Live for lust. Lust for life."
I have the facsimile edition (4.00 / 2) (#63)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:24:06 PM EST

The recipes are excellent, despite being written in the days before oven thermostate when you regulated the stove with a damper and fuel.

[ Parent ]
Modern Fanny Farmer vs. old (4.00 / 1) (#130)
by libertine on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:30:38 PM EST

I have 2 copies, one old, one new.

The old cooking book I use for camping :).  Advice on banking wood coals is useful then.

The new one has the appropriate changes to cover such modern conveniences as a gas oven, metric measures, etc.

"Live for lust. Lust for life."
[ Parent ]

Outstanding! (5.00 / 8) (#57)
by Rocky on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:20:16 PM EST

Great to see an article on this!

Some more handy pointers:

  • Get your ass a sharp chef's knife, and learn how to keep it sharp. Repeat after me: you are less likely to get a bad cut from a sharp knife because you do not have to force it to cut.
  • A few good tools are better than many crappy ones. Next time, take a pass on that three-set of omelet pans at K-Mart and get one from Williams-Sonoma. This way, you'll actually cook your omelet instead of burn it.
  • You should do recipes in books at least twice. The first time is to get it wrong and experiment, and the second time is to make it the correct way. There are so many intangibles in cooking that it's the only way to see what's reproduceable and what's not. Not altogether unlike coding.
  • Know your ingredients. Believe it or not, the peppers you got at the farm stand or grew in your backyard really do taste better than the ones you bought in the supermarket. Get meat from a butcher once in a while, if you can find one.
  • Books. "The Way to Cook" is clearly one of my favorites, but there's other good stuff out there. Anything with Julia's name on it is golden. "Joy" is great for a starting point for recipe research. Use common sense: don't get a book on Thai food writen by an Italian from Wisconsin.

If you follow these points and some of the others I've seen here, you'll be on your way to putting on weight in the most rewarding manner possible. When you get really good, you can do nutty things like put together recipes on the fly from what's in the cupboard and reverse-engineer recipes from food you've eaten.

That's for another day, though.

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Joy (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:22:30 PM EST

I was perhaps too hard on Joy. It is a very good reference from the point of understanding ingredients.

I strongly second your endorsement of this. If you select good ingredients and handle them reasonably little, you get food that is good and easy to prepare.

[ Parent ]

If you know a good butcher (4.00 / 2) (#71)
by Iesu II on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:34:51 PM EST

and you have a food processor, try making your own hamburger. Get a pound or so of round steak. You want it to have nice big fat chunks because they make your burger taste better. :) Chop it into rough 1" cubes, add anything you like (a bit of onion, some basil, Worchestershire sauce, usw.), and process with the whirly blade until it looks like hamburger. Form it into patties with your fingers, but don't press hard. If you press hard it'll get tough.

Your hamburger will be juicier, tenderer, tastier, and as an added bonus, quite a bit safer to cook rare. If it isn't pink, it's too dead to eat.

[ Parent ]

I have never tried this (3.00 / 1) (#110)
by Altus on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:52:35 PM EST

But then I just found a bucher shop to go to.

I have considered making sausage (I have a half assed pasta/sausage maker which is usefull) but this place already has incredible sausage... I will definitely follow your advice and try to make my own hamburger... thanks

oh, and BTW, for the grilling of these hamburgers, try a little bleu cheze wraped up in the middle, it is unbelivably good, especialy when you have added the proper stuff you your burger, garlic, onion, basil, breadcrumbs...

"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the money, then you get the women..." -H. Simpson
[ Parent ]

Hamburgers (4.00 / 1) (#125)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:22:28 PM EST

Number one thing to learn grilling hamburgers is the right temperature (this goes for meat in general). I poke the meat and see how it feels -- this is just as good as a meat thermometer, although you may wish to start out with a small instant read one (analog -- the digital ones take forever to get a reading). If you are frying them, you can also go by the color of the liquid that oozes out of them. If you overcook them they'll be dry and tasteless.

For something different and tasty, try mixing your hamburger with a little wine and oregano.

Basil on a burger is new to me, but I'm definitely giving it a try: my herb garden is steps from my grill. Speaking of which -- charcoal is way, way better than gas, although I do use both.

[ Parent ]

I dont have time (3.00 / 1) (#129)
by Altus on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:29:53 PM EST

for charcoal...

sure I like it, its great espeicaly for certain things (and I would love to have a proper smoker for ribs)  But the fact of the matter is that I grill all the freakin time... many times a week, even in poor weather... I prefer the speed and efficency of gas for these purposes...  once I buy a house I will  have both avaiable at all times of cource (prefereably built into my deck.)

"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the money, then you get the women..." -H. Simpson
[ Parent ]

Me too. (3.00 / 1) (#132)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:36:27 PM EST

I use my gas grill all the time. But it sure doesn't compare to the weber. I have the teen tiny portable weber which I bought for picnics and now use in the back yard next to the gas grill when I can.

[ Parent ]
Butcher (3.00 / 1) (#101)
by zonker on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:36:41 PM EST

I heartily agree with this - get all of your meat at a butcher if at all humany possible. The stuff at a chain grocery store just doesn't compare. I discovered an awesome place in Denver called Tony's Market and I have been shopping there for more than a year now. I don't buy anything at the grocery store except things that they don't carry at Tony's - like sugar, ketchup, ice cream and so on.

Tony's is a bit more expensive, but I save a lot of money by cooking instead of just ordering delivery food or going out to eat. Since I live alone, I've been working on a lot of recipes that store well, so I end up only cooking dinner (as opposed to reheating) about two or three nights a week.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]

How could you go wrong (3.00 / 1) (#104)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:44:36 PM EST

with a butcher shop called "Tony's Market?"

If you live in the city, you can have access to a produce store and a fishmonger. If you live on a block with all three (butcher, greengrocer and fishmonger) you're in.

[ Parent ]

Experimentation (none / 0) (#261)
by kvan on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 02:49:23 PM EST

When you get really good, you can do nutty things like put together recipes on the fly from what's in the cupboard and reverse-engineer recipes from food you've eaten. That's for another day, though.

I disagree; as soon as one is reasonably comfortable in a kitchen, it's time to experiment. Experimentation will speed up the learning process immensely. One of the best ways to get a feel for cooking is to take a dish you've eaten many times and tweak it. Substitute fennel for the celery and see what happens to the taste. Experimenting like this will teach you more than any number of books ever could.

"Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, most do." - Bertrand Russell

[ Parent ]
A simple receipe: Kuro5hin Velouté (3.00 / 1) (#79)
by Stereo on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:46:49 PM EST

I tried this for the first time last week, and it tastes great. I took two papayas and unfrosted an equivalent amount of salmon; I think I used three or four salmon slices, taste while you're preparing this. I then put everything in the mixer, thinking I would probably have to add some cream or some apples later, but it tastes so good out of the mixer that I decided to keep it.

I kept the bowl in the fridge for ten minutes to cool it down the first time, if you're going to do this you should havet your papayas and salmon cooled before beginning. When I did this for a friend, I served this in wide bowls, with a slice of green apple floating on it for decoration and a glass of ros wine.

Has anyone else got that kind of easy yet delicious receipes to share?

kuro5hin - Artes technicae et humaniores, a fossis

Gefilte fish (3.00 / 1) (#80)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:49:15 PM EST

This reminds me of gefilte fish. Not the horrible rubber pucks you get in a jar at the supermarket, but the real thing -- a wonderful moussy kind of fish confection. My friends who make it say it's no trouble at all if you have a food processor.

[ Parent ]
food processor = mixer? (3.00 / 1) (#83)
by Stereo on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 03:59:11 PM EST

We're talking about a motorized chopper intended for food, right?

kuro5hin - Artes technicae et humaniores, a fossis

[ Parent ]
Sure. (3.00 / 1) (#86)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:02:05 PM EST

Sure. I suppose you can do it either in a blender or a food processor (which tends to have a larger blade).

I was just saying that what you described sounds a lot like gefilte fish, which I used to think was nasty until I had some home made.

[ Parent ]

Easy Pesto (5.00 / 2) (#153)
by Artifice on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:32:44 PM EST

2 tightly packed cups fresh basil leaves, washed
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon pine nuts (walnuts will do in a pinch)
1/4 cup olive oil, preferably extra virgin
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino, romano, or parmesan cheese (don't buy the kind in a can -- grate it yourself!)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and salt in a blender or food processor and chop finely. Add basil and continue to chop, using a pulse setting. You'll have to keep scraping the sides of the container and pushing the mix down at first.

When the basil is chopped, but not totally pureed, spoon the stuff into a bowl. Stir in the cheese just before serving (at room temperature). Have your sidekick cook up a batch of your favorite pasta, and use the pesto instead of a red or alfredo sauce. Delish!

How are your shares of Worldcom doing? Find out with the Enron Memorial Real-Time Stock Monitor!
[ Parent ]
Pest and Basil (5.00 / 2) (#156)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:38:29 PM EST

Basil grow really nicely in flowerboxes, flowerpots, or just about any other kind of container. I've got a half dozen pots of basil on my back porch just for pesto. And get this -- my kids love it. It's practically the only thing they'll eat beside hot dogs or mac and cheese (they also love hummous).

It's not too late to put some out right now. The only thing is you want to harvest leaves regularly otherwise they will start to put out flowers, in which case the leaves begin to wilt and the taste changes. If you do see some flowers, nip them off right away. Next year, when you put the Basil in, wait until all chance of frost is gone before putting them out. In fact when the nights are cold you will have to bring them inside. By mid-may they can be out there all the time, at least up here in Massachusetts.

[ Parent ]

Try roasted garlic as well as fresh (5.00 / 2) (#170)
by jac on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 08:03:13 PM EST

When I make pesto, I use about 2x the ammount of garlic that you specified and 2/3rds of that I roast in a toaster oven at 350 for about 10-15 minutes, until it gets soft and light brown.  It adds a subtle, nutty sweetnees that I like a lot.

Toasting the pine nuts (or any kind of seed/nut type of seasoning for that matter) is another favorite trick for adding flavor.

You are not what you eat. You're what you don't poop.
[ Parent ]

Excellent Article (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by Jave27 on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:01:56 PM EST

This article has made me decide to go home and cook something tonight.  I'm getting really tired of fast food and chips and salsa.  It generally tastes good, but doesn't really leave me feeling all that satisfied.  A good home-cooked meal sounds like a great way to relieve some of the excess stress from my life.  Thanks!

"Beating up the homeless. It's cruel, but it's a good clean work-out and leaves you feeling winded and superior." - CheeseburgerBrown

Great (3.00 / 1) (#88)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:04:45 PM EST

Make sure you invite a friend.

[ Parent ]
Crucial missing tool (4.00 / 1) (#89)
by thebrix on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:06:14 PM EST

Balloon whisk. Absolutely vital, and its action can't be reproduced by anything else.

One of my worst mistakes was to buy a food processor, costing 70 as I recall. After a few months I gave it away; it was a swine to clean and, as it turned out, what it did was done better by hand.

Food procesors and other tools. (3.00 / 1) (#92)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:12:20 PM EST

And, as somebody else pointed out, I forgot wooden spoons. My point is that you can probably outfit workable kitchen for less than $100, and quite a good one for less than $200, by concentrating on basic tools of reasonable qualtiy.

Food processors fall into the category of tools whose versatility is oversold. I find them absolutely indispensible for pie crust (along with choosing the right flour! Use pastry flour or add a few tablespoons of cakeflour to each cup of all-purpose). They have a number of uses that are overlap blenders. However I don't use them for chopping because it's too much trouble to get them out, prechop the veggies so they can be fed in, and then clean the darned thing.

The baloon whisk suggestion is good. To complement this, I'd suggest a set of nesting mixing bowls. I have a set of six that run from two feet in diameter down to six inches and I use them all routinely.

[ Parent ]

Food processors... (4.00 / 1) (#108)
by jason on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:50:48 PM EST

Be careful when evaluating the usefulness of a food processor. Some jobs (slicing a zillion carrots, finely chopping onions) become so quick that you think there's no work involved. But when you try it by hand, it takes forever. When you need to chop many things, a processor is another set of hands.

The main trick with a food processor is to use it for bulk items. Try to use it as often as possible before cleaning. You have to decide on a good ingredient ordering, of course. And a processor is indispensible for some pastries.

And for the KitchenAid, well, do get the biggest you can afford. We bought the full-power, 6qt one for our holiday gift a few years back, and it's just big enough. You can knead a full batch of wheat dough. Kneading everything in one pass helps with uniform rising, and the total amount of work is far less. And the big one will still whip a single egg into meringue. Too bad the Kenwood 7qt is ugly (imho).

But yes, you still need at least one whisk. Many sauces and washes need simple whisking. And you can never have too many wooden spoons or good scraping spatulas.

[ Parent ]

Things you need an absurd number of (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:01:49 PM EST

I've never felt I needed the larger one myself, but if you say so I'm sure it's useful. You brought up an interesting topic:

And you can never have too many wooden spoons or good scraping spatulas.

This could be a whole discussion in itself: "Things you Need a Absurd Number Of".

Spoons, yes, dishtowels yes. My vote for the number one item in this category are cutting boards. I've got them from huge down to tiny ones just big enough to chop a small onion on. And I've got at least five of those. I use them for chopping, but also serving (as small platters or for putting out cheese and crackers).

[ Parent ]

Cutting boards... (3.00 / 1) (#119)
by Rocky on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:12:19 PM EST

...I recommend at least two:  one for meat and one for everything else.

Really helps with respect to sanitation.

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
[ Parent ]

Absolutely. (4.00 / 1) (#123)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:16:34 PM EST

I put mine through the dishwasher. But in the course of a single meal, it's very tempting to just rince the raw chicken board and chop your salad tomatoes on it -- definitely a bad idea.

[ Parent ]
Dishwasher!? (none / 0) (#191)
by /dev/niall on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:07:16 AM EST

That doesn't warp the board? I always wash mine by hand. I also treat them every couple of weeks with mineral oil to keep them from absorbing moisture and warping. Makes cleaning them easier too.
-- 报告人对动物
[ Parent ]
Hasn't happened yet (none / 0) (#219)
by jolly st nick on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 10:13:07 AM EST

The answer may be that I have so many no one board gets very much time in the dishwasher. Also, my very small cutting boards (which about three times the area of poker deck) are plastic. My large ones like the well-and-tree platter are too big to fit. Finally, I machine wash wooden cutting boards when I have been cutting raw meat on them. So, the effect is confined to the midsized boards and only after cutting meat. I have wooden several cutting boards that I am sure are more than ten years old and are perfectly serviceable, despite my never having taken much care with them. YMMV, so stick with what works for you.

Personally, I hate having to be fussy about equipment (except knives), which is also why I don't particularly like non-stick pans.

[ Parent ]

Clarification. (5.00 / 1) (#206)
by pwhysall on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 02:22:38 PM EST

One for raw meat and one for everything else.

Cooked meat is not such a problem.
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
[ Parent ]

What about... (3.00 / 1) (#93)
by Rocky on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:12:23 PM EST

...a big-ass Kitchen-aid mixer with the whip attachment?  

Those things are good for when your wrists are shot from CTS.

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
[ Parent ]

Very good (3.00 / 1) (#95)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:16:01 PM EST

They're very good tools. As I said elsewhere I prefer the smaller one to the big one -- it's cheaper and takes up less room, and should be adequate for anyone who doesn't have some kind of inferiority complex to exorcise.

I like them tremendously for making bread and cakes; the whip attachment works wonderfully for beating eggs for meringues or souffles.

However, I'd never consider it as a replacement for a cheap whish and a mixing bowl, of which I have many. I'm sorry, I'm not going to whip out a big-ass mixer every time I make an omelette.

[ Parent ]

What exactly does it do? (3.00 / 1) (#114)
by Emir Cinder on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:04:03 PM EST

I'm so opposed to clutter I don't own one and have always used a large fork instead.
So my question is, what does it do that a fork doesn't?

[ Parent ]
It beats (4.00 / 3) (#120)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:12:59 PM EST

Just a lot more effectively than a fork does. This means if you are making an omelette, you whisk the eggs two or three times instead of beating frantically with your fork for fifteen seconds. It not only mixes faster, but incorporates much more air wiht every stroke, very important for some things like souffles (which are delicious and easy by the way -- don't be intimidated!). I sometimes make small amounts of whipped cream with my whisk, something you could not do with a fork.

[ Parent ]
forks are more versatile though (none / 0) (#237)
by martingale on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 12:02:32 AM EST

fifteen seconds and pour into the pan and rinse the bowl for ten seconds, versus two seconds and pour and clean the processor for a minute? I take the former...

But seriously, one advantage of the fork method is that you get more control over the homogeneity of the omelette. The food processor tends to make well mixed but boring combinations, I find.

[ Parent ]

Do new kitchens help? (3.00 / 1) (#91)
by gauntlet on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:07:05 PM EST

I've been looking forward to cooking more, for health and finance reasons. Our apartment right now is incredibly small, and the appliances are small, and at about 30 years old. I'm going to be moving into a new condominium soon (hopefully within 3 months, probably later), and I'm hoping that having a brand new bigger brighter kitchen, with a brand new stove and fridge will motivate me to cook more.

Can anyone verify whether or not this works? Should I buy a food processor and some good knives around the same time in order to enhance the effect? Or am I holding out false hope?

Into Canadian Politics?

Organization is better than size. (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:29:24 PM EST

People's kitchens tend to get cluttered, and clutter has a way of expanding to take all available space. If you're doing a big dinner party, counter space is welcome, but chances are if you are a normal person you'll have to sweep them clear of junk first. It's a lifestyle thing -- people are spending more time in the kitchen, but it's not cooking.

One of the best kitchens I've seen was designed by a man I know for his wife, whose legs were paralyzed by polio. It was scientifically designed to minimize walking around. My favorite feature, the dishes were stored in a central island on a roll out shelf, that rolled out to meet the lowered door of the dishwasher.

Counter space is important, but overrated. On the other hand cupboard space is usually underrated. The better stocked your ktichen is, the easier it is to cook on the spur of the moment. Personally, I'd take the typical cupboard space of a kitchen and double it if I could.

A good stove is very important. Gas if at all possible. However, I wouldn't worry about it if its electric. Gas is a luxury, not a necessity. Electric stoves are prefectly capable. You want an accurate oven, that's all, and sufficiently powerful burners. The only kind of stove I'd avoid is a glasstop. They're slow to heat up, slow to cool down, and a bear to clean despite their "clean" appearance. If I bought a house with one I'd immediately throw it out.

By in large, these are not the most important things. Having a cook book that you like is probably an order of magnitude more important. There are a few gagets like a good mixer that make a big difference. But actually, if I was going to tell you how to select a kitchen that will help you cook more, I'd say get one in a house that is close to a first rate market, and if possible some speciality food shops (ethnic, vegetables, butcher, fish monger). Next, I would look for a house that had a layout conducive to entertaining.

[ Parent ]

Might work, but... (5.00 / 1) (#100)
by Jel on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:34:52 PM EST

If you want my opinion, enjoying cookery is a feeling or a state of mind, not so much a product of your surroundings.  If I had to pick some surroundings to help me get into the spirit of cooking though, I'd probably choose a barbeque or an old log-burning stove before a sterile new kitchen.

If you have to get into that mindset in your new kitchen, then I'd say to go for a trial by fire... saturate the house with the smells of some exotic curry, or whatever has strong aromas will really get your taste buds going.  Either way, it is a state of mind, and once you get that feeling, you'll be able to cook great in that nice new kitchen.  Remember the smells, and hopefully that sensous memory will encourage you next time you start to think of really cooking something.  Also, next time you're in a good restaurant, try to appreciate the art of the whole
thing a little, and bring some of that magic home with you :)

Good luck!

[ Parent ]

One thing I like (4.00 / 2) (#106)
by coryking on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:45:53 PM EST

A good kitchen needs a LOT of light. I hate kitchens with poor lighting - you can't see what you are doing!

[ Parent ]
The American Way (2.00 / 1) (#113)
by func on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:03:01 PM EST

Buy more stuff; it'll solve your problems. For sure.

[ Parent ]
More of a typical inexperienced point of view (3.00 / 1) (#117)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:08:37 PM EST

I think it's perfectly natural for less experienced people to focus on things rather than improved habits or better situations as the solution to problems.

The problem is that Americans can indulge this fantasy more than just about anyone else. It's the SUV phenomenon, where they but an offroad vehicle but have to work on weekends to pay for it.

Cooking can be a basic simple thing, as I tried to point out, and thus a counterweight to this problem. Cooks love gadgets, but aside from a few knives, mixing utensils and a decent stove we can get along without.

[ Parent ]

if you like where you live (3.00 / 2) (#116)
by mckwant on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:08:17 PM EST

you won't mind spending time there.  That's the big difference for my SO and I over our last move.

Also, if you're going to cook a lot, just get nice knives.  $100 for a set of pretty solid knives isn't too bad.  I'm sure someone will come in and comment that the $500 Wursterhofer 10 gauge uberKnives are the only way to go, but my SO and I simply went to Bed, Bath and Beyond, and got a nice set with woodblock for $120 or so.  Makes cooking a lot nicer.

OTOH, they're actually real KNIVES, not those crappy ones you've used since school, so it may take a little bloodshed before you're used to having something that's actually sharp for a change.  Happened to me.

Oh, and don't get wooden handled ones.  You can't throw those in the dishwasher the way you can plastic handles.

[ Parent ]

Incredibly small, eh? :) (4.50 / 2) (#138)
by fraise on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:50:08 PM EST

I got hooked on cooking our own meals in Finland - we lived in a 300 sq.ft (28 sq.m) apartment, with a stove not much larger than your average microwave, and a cooktop with only two burners. Only one cutting board, and a fridge that was, well, the same size as the stove... You probably don't need a food processor, I've got by without one for five years now. Just use a sharp knife, and work on those arm muscles by beating/mixing stuff by hand. It works - after all, how do you think people did all that just a hundred years ago? I used to want a nice, big shiny kitchen too, but by doing things the "hard" way, something interesting happens - you're even more satisfied when successful. Also, it's a lot harder to make big mistakes when you don't use any electronic gadgets.

[ Parent ]
Invite people over. It's more fun... (4.50 / 2) (#149)
by Artifice on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:24:42 PM EST

...to cook for more people. If your friends are cool with it, have them arrive while you're still cooking. Maybe they'll even help you chop veggies, etc.

We used to do this with another couple, meanwhile talking, drinking, etc. A fantastic way to spend an evening.

How are your shares of Worldcom doing? Find out with the Enron Memorial Real-Time Stock Monitor!
[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#190)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:06:14 AM EST

It's about the tools, ingredients, and recipes. Read my long post, please.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Yes yes yes! (4.66 / 3) (#99)
by outlandish on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:30:27 PM EST

I was just in the Netherlands for a week (great country, depressed people, go figure) and I spent a few days visiting with a friend who sees many of the same flaws in dominant western culture that I do.

Part of our problem is that many would-be progressives and liberals do little more than complain about things. Every time I try to talk progress, all I get is a lot of negative arguments telling me all the bad things that are going on, but I hear precious little in terms of advice on how to positively move forward. I understand this is largely in part due to the ease of making negative arguments (it's easier to spot bugs that to try and write clean code) but I personally feel some responsibility to rise to the next level.

We (my friend and I) have been trying to come up with a mannafesto to help spread our ideology, a series of simple and positive arguments that explain the virtue we see in leading a better life. This trip, we actually hit upon a good three-point combination that I think neatly encapsulates our ideas:

  • Cooking: as this article so neatly explains, cooking is a simple act that can help re-insert meaning into our lives, bring communities together and help offset the massive consolidation of agribusiness.

  • Biking: very popular form of transportation in Holland. More biking in the US would help combat rampant obiesity, reduce smog, and give people a little dash of visceral experience.

  • Telling the Truth: it never ceases to amaze me how many tiny little lies and "stories" get told by myself and people I know. We're not talking major-league deceeption, just a certain underlying lack of honesty and some glaring sins of omission. Taking a firm stand on this is a sure step to more widespread psychological health and social integration through realized commonality of experience.

The author here has done a fine job of extolling the virtues of cooking. I'll be walking my talk next paycheck with a set of good knives. Thanks!

remote-hosted soapboxing, mindless self-promotion, and salacious gossip -- outlandishjosh.com

Add this... (5.00 / 2) (#121)
by Greyjack on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:13:02 PM EST

Add this to your list:

Eat together.  At a table.  Not on the couch in front of the TV--especially if you've put forth the effort of cooking for your family and/or friends.

Enjoy the good food and the good company!

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

[ Parent ]
Re: Biking... (2.33 / 3) (#126)
by otis wildflower on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:25:28 PM EST

...  How about having public showers installed then?

In the US, most distances covered and cargoes carried require either a motorized vehicle or LOTS OF STINKY SWEAT..

Not that I mind sweating, it's just everyone ELSE..

[ Parent ]

Good for you! (2.00 / 1) (#134)
by poopi on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:39:59 PM EST

I like your manifesto, but since my comute is way beyond biking range I hope you don't mind if I substitute "Walking/Running" instead of biking. Well actually I'll start with walking and hopefully work my way up to running. I like your ideas about cooking bringing communities together and offseting consolidation of agribusiness. So to that effect I will do my shopping at mom-n-pop grocery stores instead of the conglomerates (produce is better at a small shop anyways). Also, I will make a effort to have a different group of friends/family over at least once a month for whom I will cook a meal (community building thing)! Telling the truth thing is the best point you make. I think truth has taken a real beating over the past little while and I will try to be far more honest. There so many times that little white lies/lies by omission enter my daily life. Not all are out of bad intentions (Yes, yes I know. The road to hell...yada, yada, yada), but nevertheless, there will be far fewer of these in my life from now on. Including, those little justfications I make to myself when I'm faced with doing something I know I shouldn't. I think this will do me good. I hope that in time I can set an example for others and my little piece of the world will be a better place :) Thanks for the post.


"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera
[ Parent ]

mannafesto (3.00 / 1) (#173)
by j1mmy on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 08:42:35 PM EST

We (my friend and I) have been trying to come up with a mannafesto to help spread our ideology

That's either a horrendous typo or a very clever pun.

I bike to work semi-regularly (weather permitting), I've started biking for fun, and I'm determined to do my errands this weekend on bike rather than by car. The only problem I have is that my mountain bike is overkill for my urban environment -- the fat tires and thick tread only slow me down, which limits my range. My friend is trying to sell me on the idea of cross bike, but those are expensive and I'm a cheapskate. Oh well.

[ Parent ]

If you use an older oven (4.75 / 4) (#102)
by lb008d on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:40:49 PM EST

Get a good oven thermometer. Guaranteed you're oven isn't calibrated right.

Excellent advice. (4.00 / 1) (#105)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:45:47 PM EST

Also, you might get two -- one for the top rack and one for the bottom. If your oven is poorly insulated there can be a substantial difference between the two.

[ Parent ]
YES YES YES YES (3.00 / 1) (#124)
by 3than on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:17:19 PM EST


I must say that I love wine. Italian wine mostly, but I have been starting to understand the French wines a bit just recently.

For me, one of the most exciting things about cooking for myself is that it's the single best thing you can do to enhance a bottle of wine. Oh...so good.

Wine, by itself, as good as it may be, whether it's a cheap off-year chianti or a Lafite-Rothschild '37, will begin to taste like vinegar. Not the first glass, sure, but I like to drink more than one glass of wine, especially if it's good.

But sit that next to your favorite meal (or at least a decently matched dish or two) and it becomes a totally different experience, with the two elements playing off each other beautifully.

Ah...I'm getting hungry, and thinking of this fast tomato/tuna pasta and Italian rosato combo I'm going to make soon...

Wine (4.50 / 2) (#131)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:31:49 PM EST

Personally, I don't drink much except when I cook. I'll uncork a bottle of wine or whiskey and take a little drink, splash a little in the food if I think it goes.

People who make a huge deal about wine on one hand, and those who are intimidated by it on the other, need to get one thing through their heads. Wine is food. There's no great mystery to it, and you don't have to spend an arm and a leg on it. Some wines go better with some foods, just the way some foods go better with some foods. A nice garlic mashed potato may go well with a hamburger, but not with poached halibut. I'd take a robust chianti with one and maybe an otherwise insipid pinot grigiot with the other. However you don't need to know this yourself, if you have a good wine merchant. Find someone who is matter of fact and down to earth, not somebody into wine status.

Oenology arcana is a separate discipline from food, and not one you need to master to enjoy wine with food. You'll get better advice from somebody who views wine as food.

[ Parent ]

One more thing (3.00 / 1) (#135)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:40:53 PM EST

Have you ever tried the old style Orvieto, before they turned it into a chintzy chardonnay clone? I think the labels will say something like "Abbocatto" or some such thing.

This is an excellent white wine for robust and even spicy food -- a nice change from Gewurztraminer.

[ Parent ]

I hardly ever eat out (4.00 / 1) (#127)
by demi on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:26:23 PM EST

But that's what having lived in South Louisiana will do to a man (it seemed like men took a much larger part in the cooking duties there). Cajun food is the best cheap food of all time. I also recommend the red wines of Rioja and Chile, which will eat up some of your savings, but hey.

If you do a lot of cooking, I recommend good cookware, like stainless Calphalon or likewise. You can buy it at K-Mart and Target now, I think, and for $150 you can get excellent pots and pans that will last forever (avoid the hard-anodized teflon coatings if possible). Also, good knives are worth the money. I use Henckels five star knives that are at least 15 years old and still sharper than an STM tip.

If I do eat out, I try to replicate the recipes I like. That's how I learned to make Tandoori chicken, Mee Krob, and pasta putanesca. Here in Houston there are several huge gourmet supermarkets where I always get great ideas just by walking through the aisles. You don't get the social exposure of a fancy restaurant by cooking at home, but if you are sufficiently skilled all of your friends will clamor for invitations at Chez Vous.

My dad lives in Cajun country... (3.00 / 1) (#148)
by Artifice on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:22:01 PM EST

...and every time I visit I seem to gain 5 lbs., from eating gumbo, crawfish etouffee, sausage, etc. :)

Cajun food isn't always the healthiest, but it's mighty tasty.

How are your shares of Worldcom doing? Find out with the Enron Memorial Real-Time Stock Monitor!
[ Parent ]

Can I come too ? [nt] (2.00 / 1) (#152)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:28:55 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Geeks + cooking = Good Eats (4.00 / 2) (#128)
by Wondertoad on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:26:38 PM EST

Not necessarily good eats, but Good Eats, a show on the TV Food Network that all geek-minded people should Tivo and watch each week.

Host Alton Brown works with a different foodstuff each week, and as he goes along, he explains a lot of the science and thinking behind the cooking. And he does it all in a friendly science-guy sort of way. So suddenly it's not just about following a recipe, but thinking; hey, gluten works this way, fat molecules work that way. Suddenly it becomes clear why some meals turn out excellent and some turn out a soggy mess.

Recommended for geeks everywhere!

or Deep Fried, Live! (3.00 / 1) (#174)
by Colol on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 09:44:48 PM EST

If you can get past the fact that it's a Flash animation and hosted by an octopus, Deep Fried, Live! is a great cooking show. Excellent recipes, chock full of fun, and good explanations of the science behind food.

Even geeks stuck with analog modems can easily appreciate it (if I'm doing it at 33.6k, almost anyone can do it). Now if only episodes would come out more often...

[ Parent ]
Mario eats naked (none / 0) (#210)
by ZairTheWise on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 04:46:47 PM EST

I haven't been watching TV for about a year now (yes, and I am STILL sane), so I don't knwo if this show is still around, but I used to watch "Mario eats Italy" regularily. It is/was part travel show, part cooking show, and it featured a lot of easy yet tasty recipes. "The naked chef" was also quite informative, although its recipes were a bit harder than Mario's.

Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is the better defense
[ Parent ]
Food/Cooking in Lithuania (5.00 / 4) (#136)
by MickLinux on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:46:11 PM EST

What I am about to say can probably apply to others who have lived for a goodly time in another country.  

This country happens to be Lithuania.

(1) Karsis (smoked bream) -- this is one of the best precooked meals you can imagine.  Get 1 Karsis, a beer, and a few cucumbers, and you have yourself a meal.  Don't like fish?  Well, this one has bones -- but you'll carefully and delicately pick off every bit of flesh from the bones.  It is smoked with a salt/pepper/garlic combo, and usually the same hour as it is caught.  It looks like it should be a flounder, but only because it is cut open before smoking.  Bream is a very oily fish, but that just makes it smoke all the better.  Oh -- no fish taste.  Taste is that of smoked bacon.

(2) Cepolini - Potato zeppelins, stuffed with farmer's cheese.  The cooks use a high-starch potato to begin with, and shred it fine, mixing it with a bit more starch.  They then make a "zeppelin" shape, stuff it with a cottage-cheese mixture (curd, not whey, and harder than what US citizens are used to), and boil it, or freeze it for later.  It is served with a cream sauce, and is delicious.  Come to think of it, the Varske (the cheese) is a staple of cooking, here.

(3) Earth Berries - I include this with cooking on the time end, because just gathering a cupful is a 2 hour job.  I could call these things birdberries -- but birdberries have no flavor.  These have twice the flavor of a strawberry, and they garnish things so well I can't believe it.  These berries grow on the borders of pits, and they are well worth the time of picking.  Think "Blueberries for Sal" with ten times the flavor.

(4) Coffee -- Don't have a coffee maker?  No problem.  Put the grounds in the cup, and pour boiling water over it.  Then you can either knock the grounds down with a spoon, or dribble a little cold water around the edges.  In the latter case, the grounds amazingly drop to the bottom of the cup.  Want Cappucino?  Add a little sugar to milk, and beat with a whisk.  Pour the mixture over coffee, and it will be "close enough".  Top with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and sugar mix (go light on the nutmeg and cloves).

(5) Salt fish -- takes a bit to get used to, cooking wise, but people here can cook with it.  Typically, they do soak the salt out of the fish; cooking can be the normal frying -- or sometimes (as for Christmas) they marinate the fish in a vinager or lemon juice sauce.

Speaking of cooking, it is also worth while to find out about Lithuania's Christmas Eve dinner.  12 vegetarian or fish courses, one after another:  mushrooms, cepelini, marinated salt herring, the list goes on and on, and the dishes do too.  

I refuse to be held hostage to your inability to pay attention.

Smoked fish (4.00 / 1) (#139)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:51:57 PM EST

The smoked bream sounds wonderful. I love smoked fish. I could eat a pound of Nova at a sitting.

One treat we have here in New England in the summers is smoked bluefish. Bluefish come into shore in a feeding frenzy on smaller fish. Fisherman can catch huge numbers of them, but there is a problem. They get rather overly fishy tasting if you don't eat them soon. Smoked however, they are delicious.

Is the bream an oily fish, like bluefish or salmon?

[ Parent ]

wow (3.00 / 2) (#150)
by jnemo131 on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:27:18 PM EST

Sorry, its just really wierd to hear of another Lithuanian, or at least someone who knows that Lithuania exists. Its always in the strangest places that you hear of Lithuania. Ummm... nice to meet you, I guess...

"I heard the droning in the shrine of the sea-monkey"
-The Pixies
[ Parent ]
USian in Lithuania w/ family (5.00 / 1) (#194)
by MickLinux on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:15:45 AM EST

I can't really say I'm Lithuanian.  I'm a 4th generation American.

But that 5th generation is from Lithuania, and we know our family here, so in a way the link is quite real.

Right now I'm teaching English at a high school (gimnazija).  The pay is almost nonexistant by US standards, but it gives us the right to be here.

But yeah, Lithuania exists and I'm aware of it.

I refuse to be held hostage to your inability to pay attention.

[ Parent ]

Cooking also improves self-reliance... but (4.00 / 2) (#141)
by willpost on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:56:33 PM EST

  When you're done cooking or eating, please wash the dishes and wipe the surfaces.  Maintenance like that might seem obvious but I know many who skip that to go party or sober up.  After a couple weeks those dishes get NASTY and a concerned room-mate/relative like me has to clean up their mess!

In my family (3.00 / 1) (#142)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 05:59:18 PM EST

people clean up for you if you put up a big effort cooking. I love to sit in the kitchen with a glass of wine and watch my sisters-in-law and mother-in-law clean up.

Of course, you really do need to get into the habit of cleaning up as you go along. I'm realy a bit messier than I should be. My dad, who was a professional, would make the kitchen get cleaner as he cooked. If you are doing a big meal, you have to work this way otherwise you'll be swamped with dirty pans.

[ Parent ]

I agree (3.00 / 1) (#146)
by willpost on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:14:35 PM EST

  However if you're sharing the rent with a brother at a place and everyone decides to get their own food it's a little different.  I don't enjoy cleaning up barbeque parties I don't attend or wasn't invited to.  I could move out to solve my problem but people should really finish what they start.

[ Parent ]
hear hear (none / 0) (#239)
by martingale on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 12:13:40 AM EST

I'm a big believer in "clean" cooking myself. I always keep the sink empty, which allows me to rinse all the bowls/glasses/boards I use as I go along. It's a lot easier to do this if the sink is unencumbered with used tools. The other thing I need is *space*, which again you get plenty of if you rinse/reuse ustensils as you go along, instead of letting them pile up any which where.

[ Parent ]
Another utensil suggestion: Wok (4.25 / 4) (#145)
by fraise on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:13:55 PM EST

I love my wok. I got one free last year for trying out some recipes, a cheapo one, and yet it did so much, that after studying up on them, I bought a "real" one at our local Asian supermarket. What, you may ask, is so great about a wok? First off, it seals in flavors much more quickly than a regular skillet. If you heat it up correctly, you'll only need to cook onions and garlic for half the time required in a normal pan, plus the difference in flavor is outstanding.

Secondly, it cooks evenly - if you've got a rounded-bottom wok, that is. You can cook whole fish in a wok, or any other meat, for that matter. I especially use mine to first cook onions and garlic, then sautee some cubes of meat, and add a dash of soy and a couple pinches of ginger just before finishing, for example.

Thirdly, if you like frying foods (I don't, really, I only make fried "boulettes" on occasion), it takes much less oil, since it's stir-fry. Works great for homemade fried potatoes too.

How to choose a wok - this site has another article on how to use a wok, and also how to season one. Do note that a quality wok is not at all expensive - all you need is carbon steel with a long handle. Mine, a 14" wok, cost me 20 EUR (about the same in USD). They'll have machine grease on them in the store, which is normal (clean it well before use!!). It's also a good idea to get a wok ring.

Buy a garlic press, and the Moosewood Cookbook! (4.50 / 2) (#147)
by Artifice on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:16:02 PM EST

These two things have increased my love of cooking more than anything else.

Our little garlic press is a handheld metal implement. You place cut-up pieces of whole garlic into the "bowl", then push a sort of piston into it.  Minced garlic comes out little holes on the other side. I can't emphasize how much better and more flavorful freshly minced garlic is than the kind you get in a jar, or (shudder) the powdered stuff.

The Moosewood Cookbook is a pioneering cookbook published in the '70s (since revised a few times), full of incredibly delicious, healthy, vegetarian recipes. I am not a vegetarian (altho my wife is), but I have relished every Moosewood recipe we've made. They aren't complicated, and they'll acquaint you with a whole range of fresh ingredients.

How are your shares of Worldcom doing? Find out with the Enron Memorial Real-Time Stock Monitor!

I like the Moosewood Cookbook too. (3.00 / 1) (#151)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:27:41 PM EST

But some people I know have mixed feelings about it. Depends on how adventurous your tastebuds are. Still, there are lots of good basic recipes for hippie staples like hummous. I think it's a first class basic vegetarian cookbook. Still Life with Menu, on the other hand, is glorious; it's a very, very fine cookbook indeed in our out of its class.

[ Parent ]
Or not buy a garlic press (4.00 / 1) (#176)
by whovian on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 09:49:34 PM EST

The garlic press is a neat idea, but in practice it seems to waste a lot of the garlic, not to mention that you have to scrape out the leftover "skin" and otherwise take some care in cleaning the "basket". I find slivering or mincing garlic by hand with a good, sharp knive is adequate.

[ Parent ]
agreed (none / 0) (#236)
by martingale on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 11:48:04 PM EST

An extra benefit from finely chopping the garling with a knife is that the juice stays witin the very small pieces, which is an advantage when frying the garlic. The press produces a wet mass which evaporates quickly in the oil.

Oh yeah, and when chopping, try doing it just before you need it. If you let the garlic lie on the board half an hour, you loose some of the flavour.

[ Parent ]

The version by Zyliss doesn't suck (none / 0) (#257)
by jac on Tue Jun 18, 2002 at 02:03:16 PM EST

While most of the garlic presses I've used suffer from the shortcomings you describe, the version made by by Zyliss (SUSI ?) works really well: almost no waste and you don't need to peel the cloves before squishing them either.

You are not what you eat. You're what you don't poop.
[ Parent ]

no garlic press (none / 0) (#267)
by mpalczew on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 07:15:02 PM EST

I find that using a garlic press will pulverize garlic and make it not taste as good as using more garlic cut up into large peices with a knife and then used in that manner.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]
Hear, hear! (4.00 / 1) (#154)
by unDees on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:37:01 PM EST

Wish I'd caught this one in the queue, so's I could've voted it up. Looks like it didn't need me, though.

I'm glad you mentioned the Fannie Farmer cookbook; that's always my fallback when I suddenly realize I can't remember (for example) how to make drop biscuits from scratch, or how to cook the big hunking stalk of fennel I just bought on a whim.

My all-time favorite cookbook (not that anyone asked, but I'll tell you anyway) is Bob Blumer's The Surreal Gourmet, given to me by a family member on a whim (hey, we're a whimsical bunch). Most of the recipes in it are simple to make, but taste so good that people often assume you took a lot of time and care making them. It's got a bit of the trendiness the author of this story balks at, but that's offset by the unabashed goofiness of it all, and by the "Music to Cook By" recommendation for each recipe.

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It's not trendiness I object to (3.00 / 1) (#157)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:44:29 PM EST

it's when food becomes something to reinforce your status, rather than pleasure and nourishment.

Also it's obsessiveness. I remember eating my way through Toronto with some friends. We were having lunch at a modest Vietnamese place, perhaps our ninth or tenth large, elaborate meal in a row. We were talking about where to have dinner that evening. That's when I realized I was ready to throw in the towel.

[ Parent ]

Trends and food (3.00 / 1) (#160)
by unDees on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:01:25 PM EST

I try to be trend-neutral as much as I can. Everything's got pine nuts on it these days--that doesn't mean I add 'em to my Cheerios just 'cause everyone else is. But it also doesn't mean I avoid making pesto, just so I can be different. I'd like to think that five years from now, when pine nuts and Reggiano cheese and shiitake mushrooms aren't all the rage anymore, that I'm using those items no more or no less than I am today.

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[ Parent ]
Join the Slow Food movement (3.00 / 1) (#159)
by edwin on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 06:53:05 PM EST

The Slow Food International espouses the same prinicples you're advocating here. Their manifesto is here. The movement started in Italy, and now has happy little cabals of gourmands worldwide...

If I can't have a big mac (3.50 / 2) (#166)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:39:29 PM EST

then I don't want to be part of your revolution ;-)

Seriously, though, I understand what these people are getting at. I'm not sure this is the right way; at the very least its a way that is fraught with peril.

The problem is I'd hate to see a kind of political correctness cast its pall of the simple enjoyment of preparing and sharing food. I've had people tell me I should never eat a piece of fruit out of its local season. For New Englanders, this is a hard sentence -- we'd be living on cold storage apples and turnips winter until mid summer. I'm all for taking advantage of seasonal, local produce.

I see the main danger of this is the confounding the simple pleasures of cooking and eating and sharing with complicated semiotics and poltical orthodoxies.

[ Parent ]

Gas cooktop, CHOP your garlic (4.00 / 2) (#161)
by jet_silver on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:03:27 PM EST

The fun of cooking is really not available on electric cooktops. Electric elements heat and cool too slowly, so you always feel you're a step behind. I am building a new house that has a gas stove and it has been lots of fun unlearning twenty years' worth of bad habits.

Another poster said smash your garlic. It might seem incredible but mincing the garlic with a knife turns out a completely different, much more lively, and not at all bitter garlic flavor. I couldn't believe the difference between the two. (It was Anthony Bourdain's comment in Kitchen Confidential that got me to try this).
"What they really fear is machine-gunning politicians becoming a popular sport, like skate-boarding." -Nicolas Freeling

Electric is OK (3.00 / 1) (#164)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:24:18 PM EST

Everyone body who cooks wants gas, true enough. But I think you can do everything you need to on an electric one, especially if it is a good one. It's not the equipment that makes the cook.

Still gas is nice.

Some people sometimes go further and shell out a lot of money for a "professional" range. First of all, these things are no more like the real thing. I think of them as the poseur's stove. I don't see that they're any better. If I had the money, I'd simply put in a second oven, or maybe even a whole second stove.

[ Parent ]

Oh, yes, and garlic (4.00 / 1) (#165)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:30:06 PM EST

What you want to do is take the flat of your knife and give your garlic a whack. The peel comes off easily. Then proceed to chop your garlic as normal. The flavor is affected by the fineness of how you chop. If you dice too fine, you get the bitter garlic flavor you are talking about (which I actually like some times, but other times I want a rich, roasty kind of garlicy flavor).

[ Parent ]
Not everyone gets Gas . . . (none / 0) (#248)
by jamessiddle on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 03:31:35 PM EST

I live in a flat where it isn't possible to get Gas, and the cooker I have is probably one of the most basic ones you can get (not even a ceramic hob, just electric elements) but I still love cooking - and my ultra basic cooker has given me a real appreciation for what Gas has to offer!

[ Parent ]
Electric heats up faster than gas (none / 0) (#250)
by Hefty on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 05:17:39 PM EST

Electric ranges actually heat up much faster than gas ranges. Take a pot of water of equal volumes and time how quickly they reach a boiling point and electic will win. True there is more fielity to a gas range. And most cooks prefer being able to actually see the level of the flame to make temperature adjustments. But some of your higher quality and better rated stove tops on the market are electric. They heat up faster, they are easier to clean, and they usually last longer than gas stoves.

[ Parent ]
excellent article (3.00 / 1) (#167)
by BugCatcher on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:40:53 PM EST

Thanks for bringing up this subject. How often does cooking get talked about on K5? You all are coming up with really good suggestions for cookbooks, tools, techniques.

Baking is my favorite kitchen activity. I have a flatbread cookbook that I like a lot: Flatbreads and Flavors, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. They present recipies for flatbreads from all around the globe, and recipes for the foods that would be traditionally be served with them. Really good suggestions and tips in this one. And the stories that accompany each recipe are worth reading on their own. If you like baking and want to branch out, I'd definitely suggest this one.

All this talk of cooking makes me hungry!

Are you the windshield, or the bug? Come to www.amorsley.net/bugsplat Now available in minty-fresh RDF!

Pizza (3.00 / 1) (#168)
by jolly st nick on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:44:47 PM EST

I've tried flat breads from around the world, and my favorite is still -- Pizza.

Top your own Pizza makes a fun informal dinner party. Just provide the crusts (a simple yeast dough, but you can buy it frozen at the supermarket) and plenty of chianti.

[ Parent ]

The mighty pancake (none / 0) (#215)
by bzbb on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 10:54:03 PM EST

My father taught me how to make pancakes from scratch. It is one of my most usefull skills, and without measuring, I can create pancakes, from huge thick cakes, thake are almost bread, to thin almost tortillas, with just about anything mixed in, and its all fun. Pancakes are a great starter food to cook, because they are easy to make, hard to screw up, and have so many possiblities.

Another one of my favorites is syrup. I make syrup to go with my pancakes, and just sugar, water, and some fruit puree, and extracts to taste is great, and it allows much experimentation, which is the key to fun, quality food. If you ever have urge to try something in kitchen go for it.
-- It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds."

Samuel Adams
[ Parent ]

Sorry, no! (4.00 / 5) (#169)
by Parity on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:46:21 PM EST

If I'm going to get eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work, two hours of driving into a day, this leaves six hours, of which two hours on average are going to be taken on cleaning, laundry, personal hygiene, and eating... even -before- we talk about cooking. This leaves four hours a day for every non-essential activity, like reading (fiction, non-fiction, kuro5hin which falls somewhere between the two... ;)), playing music, painting, talking to friends, returning phone calls, coding recreational software, playing video games or MUSHes, sewing medieval and fantasy garb, et cetera. Oh, and yeah, I do watch TV... during the season, I watch Buffy. That's 1 hour a week, when it's not in reruns.... too much, I'm sure.

And just because I don't cook for myself doesn't mean I'm eating -bad- food; I'm a vegetarian... I don't go to McDonalds, Burger King, or Pizza Hut. I do order from the local pizzeria... and pizza is probably a bit towards the unhealthy side, but what about a veggie sub? And other deliverable foods include Pad Thai, Yu Tsiang Broccoli, Tofu and Black Mushroom in House Sauce, a whole suite of Indian foods that I can never remember the names of, etc.

Of course, if I want a nice hummus rollup (with lettuce, onion, and carrot) I have to make a ten minute walk / 2 minute drive to the square. And no, making hummus doesn't take that long... if you have a food processor and a dishwasher, or can get someone -else- to clean the food processor... but I'd rather spend twenty minutes walking up and down the bike path than twenty minutes grinding things in a food processor and then washing up the now dirtied bits of plastic and exceedingly sharp metal.

I've seen people who do the slow cooking for yourself thing, and I've seen how they literally spend all of their free weekday time shopping for fresh food, cooking said food, eating said food, and cleaning up after themselves. Then it's bedtime. No, no, no and a thousand times no, cooking for yourself is not such an important thing that it's worth eliminating every other non-work activity from the week. I'd go mad.

(And yes, I know you can cook large quantities, blah blah... sure, if you don't have housemates, if you have freezer space and refrigerator space, cleaning up might be fast if you have a dishwasher. I do have housemates, I do not have room in the fridge for 'large quantities' of anything... I have room for 1 head lettuce, 1 lb cheese 1 6 pack beer and 1 quart milk, and that's about it. I do not have a dishwasher, and I usually do not have anyone else eating with me so the chores of cooking and cleaning are not shared, and the act of cooking and cleaning is not social.)

In short, it's not going to happen until I either have a living situation with cooperative housemates who eat together or something resembling a family, and maybe not then, because we have to add 'getting the kids to school / from school/ to practice' to the rest of the time-eaters. On the other hand, cooking time would no longer be wasted and would double as social time with the family.

--Parity None

weekends! (4.00 / 2) (#179)
by startled on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 10:12:51 PM EST

"two hours of driving into a day"

Well, there's your biggest problem. :) I would never tolerate a two hour commute!

"And yes, I know you can cook large quantities, blah blah... sure, if you don't have housemates, if you have freezer space and refrigerator space,"

There's no room in your entire place for an extra small fridge?

Anyway, I respect your decision not to cook-- if you don't want to, don't. No one's going to make you. However, this article was about the pleasures of cooking, and I encourage you to at least try it a few times. I never used to cook. But now I just cook on weekends, but I make enough for the week.

I'm eating the healthiest, yet best-tasting, food I've ever eaten. Indian is especially great for large-quantity cooking, and very tasty. Italian is good; you can make most of the stuff ahead of time, and then cook the pasta in the time it would take to pick up food.

So, sure-- there are plenty of reasons not to cook. But for me, once I'd been doing it for a month, there was no way I'd ever go back to not cooking. You develop a much better understanding of food and eating, which are a large part of any person's life. The only down side is that now I'm a lot more discriminating, and a lot of restaurants just don't stack up.

[ Parent ]
Don't have to take long (4.00 / 1) (#187)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 12:53:30 AM EST

See my other posts for recipes, some taking down to 15 seconds. Umm, and the thing is, for many recipes the *prep* time is a few minutes, and then you pop them in a sauce pan and can sit down next to it and read a book. What do you get in return? An ability to fine-tune your food precisely to your tastes. A possibility to slowly switch to healthier foods - vegetarian does not mean it's automatically healthy, I'm a vegetarian too (switched 3 month ago along with switching to cooking for myself). Anyway, read my other post, I wrote a very long several pages one.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Quite some math there (none / 0) (#208)
by ZairTheWise on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 04:35:38 PM EST

It seems to me that you don't think of cooking as a pleassurable activity, and I won't try to change the way you think about it (even tho I do think of cooking as leisure time). However, let me rebuke some of your math: You seem to believe that you need to cook every day, while it actually isn't the case. If you spend 2-3 hours a weekend to prepare yourself a lunch and a dinne for every day of the week, and then stick them into the fridge/freezer, you'll have a dozen tasty meals for the price of one.

Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is the better defense
[ Parent ]
Censure (none / 0) (#223)
by jolly st nick on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 10:35:56 AM EST

I detect a bit of defensivenss in this post; let me say I don't mean to censure people who don't have time for cooking. Personally, I hate it when food is mixed up with things like guilt, or social status. It should be pleasure and nourishment.

In short, it's not going to happen until I either have a living situation with cooperative housemates who eat together or something resembling a family, Yes, this is in part my point. A liviing sutation with cooperative members who share food.

because we have to add 'getting the kids to school / from school/ to practice' to the rest of the time-eaters.

If and when you have kids, you will discover a whole new dimension of struggles with food. Eating and sleeping -- the big challenges of parenthood. Speaking as a parent, there is a bit to much squiring around of children to events and not enough together down-time dictated by current social norms.

[ Parent ]

Defensiveness and Censure... (none / 0) (#233)
by Parity on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 09:52:56 PM EST

You wrote: "We need to change our relationship to food. We to eat less prepared food, and cook for ourselves more."

I'm glad to hear that you don't mean to censure people, but your article did very much say that we -must- change the way we relate to food, and obviously we -do- have time for it... which may or may not be true for society in general, but k5 is not society in general, and the article was written as if it applied to every person reading it...

Combined with the fact that I have heard this particular lecture a number of times before, in more and less personal formats, yes, I probably am getting a bit defensive.

I appreciate that you feel that your life has been made better by cooking for yourself, but personally, I feel that my life is made better by turning off the !*$@ radio and its spoon-fed *!#? that passes for music, and playing my own music, and I'd much rather be practicing than cooking... I'm afraid that trying to lecture people into enjoying cooking is about as likely to succeed as me lecturing people into liking playing their own music... ('But I'm not musical!' 'I don't have any sense of rhythm' 'It takes too much time...' 'I can't afford the absolute best top of the line electric guitar so I shouldn't bother...') It's all nonsense. The truth is, some people would rather listen to inferior, lifeless preprocessed sounds and spend their time on something else like cooking, and some of us accept eating inferior, lifeless preprocessed foods (or else, spending a fair bit of money on ordering out decently made food...) and spending our time on creating something we think is worthwhile.

I do agree, however, that people should not allow the TV to take over their lives...

Parity None

[ Parent ]

Community Supported Agriculture farms (4.60 / 5) (#172)
by jac on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 08:36:31 PM EST

When we moved to a semi-rural community in the Sierra Nevada foothills, we joined a Community Supported Agriculture subscription farm.  We pay about $500 a year and each week throughout the growing season (about 6 months where we live), we pick up our share of what is ready for harvest.  Locally grown, organic produce harvested that morning, more or less at it's peak flavor and nutritional value makes really good raw materials for cooking.  

I had no clue how delicious turnips could be!

Without the cost and time involved in middlemen and transportation from distant places, the small farmer is able to make a much better living than is possible under the usual system of distribution and the ecological benefits of local production and consumption are many.  It coerces you into eating more and different kinds of vegetables than one would usually and we have come to enjoy the challenge of eating it all every week, though that gets diffucult in late summer as the volume increases.

Here's a site to help find one in your area if you're interested:


You are not what you eat. You're what you don't poop.

Just an article I was thinking of writing (3.00 / 2) (#177)
by simonbelmont on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 09:57:17 PM EST

I write to you from my parents house tonight (I'm babysitting my brother and sister) and I can tell you that I hate coming over here because of the obscene amount of "fast" food people buy at the supermarket: frozen fries, frozen chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, boxed pasta dinners, etc. You know what I mean.  I suppose cooking for 4 people is easier with these kinds of foods but for myself and my girlfriend, I try to cook using the freshest ingredients possible.  Lucky for me I live right by a Trader Joe's (a supermarket for the people who like organic) and a small produce market with the same mentality.  I must make 3 or 4 trips down there a week to get ingredients for dinner, they even have a wall of spices in large jars to buy in bulk.  For someone who loves to cook, it's pure heaven.
Cooking does help me relieve stress and it's fun for me.  I just need a bigger kitchen than the one in my 1 bedroom apartment.  Great article by the way.

the more you change the less you feel
Prepare, recycle, experiment, enjoy. (3.66 / 3) (#178)
by Colol on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 10:09:17 PM EST

You're absolutely right -- there's nothing like sitting down to a good meal you've cooked yourself. Unfortunately most of us get caught up in job/school/general stress and settle for Hot Pockets or the like (and I swear, if I see another Hot Pocket before August...) instead of something actually good.

This, friends, is where the wonder of pre-assembly comes in! Doing nothing Tuesday evening? Cook up a good spaghetti sauce, stick it in some sort of container, and heat it up later in the week with some pasta for a quickie, no-stress homecooked dinner. Fridge is almost always safe, and freezer often is, but there are some things that don't freeze and thaw so nicely.

Don't be afraid to re-use leftovers in a new way, either. A meatloaf sandwich is a welcome change from straight meatloaf. Have leftover spaghetti? Throw it in a dish, sprinkle some cheese over the top, and put it in the oven for a bit. Voila, something resembling spaghetti pie.

Cookbooks are a great place to start cooking. When you need more information, though, network! Often employees in kitchen-type stores can give you feedback on how best to cook something. Higher-end or "gourmet" supermarkets tend to employ people who cook (and can answer questions like "what cut of meat is best?" or "how can I make this less spicy but still flavorful?") as opposed to clueless junior high kids. And for goodness sake, if you loved mom's or grandma's recipes, try and get them.

Most important of all, though: make your cooking fit you! After you've followed a recipe once or twice, adjust the ingredients to suit you better. If you change something and it turns out inedible, make a note of it so you know not to do that again. Love it when your mouth's on fire? You can add chilis to almost anything. Conversely, if you aren't one for the burn, reduce the portion or substitute something less spicy. Eventually a recipe mutates and becomes truly yours, and that's when you really love it. Try to avoid baked goods at first, though, as their chemical reactions can be finicky.

Ugh... (none / 0) (#218)
by rbt on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 01:27:00 AM EST

if you loved mom's or grandma's recipes, try and get them.

I've tried. Since they've come to the conclusion that I can cook better than them (they gave me a few initial recipes) they won't share anymore.

Reverse engineered a few more by taste and experimentation -- but the rest are getting tricky and I'm not allowed in the kitchen.

It only took one runny fudge tray to realize they left butter off the list :) When given runny fudge, make a sunday.

[ Parent ]
If I might recommend (4.66 / 3) (#180)
by sobcek on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 10:22:26 PM EST

For those of you starting, How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman, is a good place to find out what you should look for when you go to buy kitchen supplies (and the ones you'll be most likely to need). Also has several thousand easy recipes, and is a really good primer to cooking.

Food pills (2.00 / 2) (#181)
by FattMattP on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 11:09:02 PM EST

I'm surprised that we have yet to develop some type of pill or similar device that provides nurishment. I spend as little time as possible preparing meals and eating them. I'd much rather just take a pill once a day and be done with it.

Nuh-uh, won't give enough fiber (none / 0) (#189)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 12:59:14 AM EST

Your digestive system is evolved to take in minerals and vitamins suspended in fiber (that's why vitamin tabs don't work nearly as well as vegies&fruits); and besides you need that same fiber for the system to work at all, lest you get diahrrea and/or congestion. You need that "ballast" that will take out toxic elements that your body creates. You can already try eating "power bars" alone for all the proteins you need, but first watch the simpsons applesauce bar episode "Our bars have more applesauce than any other power bars".
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
most vitamin pills aren't food anyhow (5.00 / 1) (#205)
by ledskof on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:56:37 PM EST

most vitamin supplements in the store aren't foods. They are processed chemicals that we would never want to put in your bodies, like, petroleum, tar, animal waste, rocks, sea shells, and metal. The big pharma companies synthesize this stuff, then sell it out to these companies making vitamins. Do you really feel ok about putting that list of stuff in your body? I don't... I drink a whole food supplment called SuperFood. It's nothing but wholefoods. Nothing is processed. You have to drink it. Natural sources end up in much more assimilable vitamins and minerals. There are vitamin pills out there made from wholefoods too though, with a cellulose capsule.

[ Parent ]
I don't think I would take one every day... (none / 0) (#209)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 04:42:54 PM EST

..., I like food too much to give up completely. However, having the option around would be nice.

[ Parent ]

Cooking and talking (4.60 / 5) (#182)
by cribeiro on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 11:17:39 PM EST

Cooking is an excellent excuse to talk about anything. Just invite some friends - preferably not too many people at once, just a few - and have everyone together at the kitchen while you prepare dinner. Open a bottle of wine, and do everything slow... cook slow, talk slow, eat slow.

We already spend a lot of our times running around for little good. Taking a little time helps revealing how many things can be done with so little urgency - just by doing it slowly. By the way, it's pretty much american culture - you seem to live to work, while other people work to live...

Eat slow, live long, and live well.

Reminded me of slow food project (none / 0) (#202)
by noogie on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 10:43:41 AM EST

Don't really know much about it, heard about it on TV. check slowfood.com

[ Parent ]
Social Activity (none / 0) (#207)
by ZairTheWise on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 04:24:54 PM EST

You're completely right. Me and my friends have been doing a similar thing for about a year now. One of us cooks one of his/her specialities, and we rotate each meeting. It's also great for trading recipes

Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is the better defense
[ Parent ]
Changing taste; Tools, recipies, vegetarian (5.00 / 5) (#184)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 12:34:12 AM EST

Why bother? Many reasons; it's healthy, you'll feel much better; anything you do you'll be able to do better, you'll have better reaction, better memory, concentration, if you write code, you'll write better code, and so forth; the food will taste more interesting and pleasant - there will be many subtle shades and nuances to every meals' taste.

If you don't eat well, your taste changes: the food that's good for you does not *taste* good, and the one that isn't, does! So you get into the vicious cycle where you eat unsuitable, overspiced food that prompts you to eat more of the same, and so on. It's a cycle that isn't easy to break out of - next to impossible if you don't know you are in one. If you're eating twinkies, fruits taste bland and/or bitter. If you eat fast food burgers, homemade rice with broccoli will also taste bland.

Spices are used to cover up the fact that ingredients have very poor flavor of their own. If you pepper it up long enough, you won't tell a good meal from a bad one. What's worse, this dumbing down of our sense of taste lingers on for a long time - you may try something that you've been told is good a week after eating a spicy chinese chicken-on-rice and your senses will tell you it's not good. And what would you believe if not your own taste? Right?

Making food for yourself is hard because at first you get negative results. Even if you made the meal well (quite a trick in itself), it won't *TASTE* good to you! On top of that, you have to buy ingredients, spend an hour working with poor tools you may have, and all that after working an 8 hour day when you'd rather relax and read a book. It's really not surprising you don't often see people switching from convenicence food to cooking for oneself.

It's quite possible, though, and here's a few tips that will hopefully help you. I'll put them in mistake - comment form:

Mistake #1: I'll make a meal today and tomorrow I'll order out.

No. Today, tomorrow and forever more. You do or you do not, there is no try. Do you think Yoda ordered out?

Mistake #2: A knife is a knife, right?

No. A knife is not a knife. Well, I mean, it is BUT a knife is more important than all other kitchen tools combined. A good knife keeps edge for a long time, has good balance and a good handle that won't fall off. A good all-around chef's knife costs at least $40-50. You won't go wrong with one from Global or Henckels - Global vegetable knife costs $70-100 though. For fruits you need a paring knife, a good one is $20-30. I don't eat meat myself so I can't say what you'd need for that. Two knives - a vegetable and a paring knife - are good enough for making vegetarian meals for me.

You absolutely need a sharpening stone for your knives. A small round stick type one is about $6, a large slab for Global knives, for instance, is about $50.

If you want to eat carrots and cucumbers, you need a good peeler. Oxo makes great ones, immeasurably better than a generic keyfood store one I had before.

Apples are the best all-around fruits. They taste much better if you core, peel and slice them. For peeling you should have the paring knife, for coring you need an apple-corer (it looks like a metal pipe with a handle).

Cutting board is important, too. Cheap ones absorb moisture and their surface gets bent out or in, which makes it hard to make a clean cut. Unfortunately, a good large wooden board costs $70-$100, by catskill or john boos.. You can get a cheaper plastic one, though, for about $20. It has to be fairly big so that vegetable pieces don't spill out on the table.

Another useful thing I got is a 2qt saucepan with a steamer insert. It's made by circulon (~$30) and it has a non-stick coating with little grooves that prevent it from scratches. A good saucepan should have a lid that stays cool, you won't get much fun out of cooking if you get burned all the time. A good steamer insert can be bought separately for about $25 or so. For both a saucepan and an insert, again, you won't go wrong with one of the "big names": circulon, calphalon, allclad, farberware. Remember, you're not rich enough to buy cheap cooking tools. They do affect the quality of cooked meals, somehow, it perhaps has something to do with an even heat distribution.

A good site with a nice selection of cooking supplies is cooking.com. I'm in no way affiliated with them.

These are all absolute essentials, you can cook comfortably if you just have these; you may want to buy mixers, blenders, food processors but you don't have to, really.

I'm vegetarian, I stopped eating meat 3 or 4 months ago, and I now feel much better. I've read that livestock is grown in a very unnatural way nowadays, cows for example take 8 months from birth to get to the butcher whereas 70 years ago they took 4-5 years. This "magic" involves unnatural for cows corn mix food, antibiotics, hormones and so forth. You can buy grass-fed meat but it's very expensive and not widely available, so I think it makes more sense to go vegetarian.. it's not that hard, really. The same reasoning I gave above about your taste changing applies here, too. I used to think.. come on, I'm not a cow - how can I eat boring salads for lunch? It's like eating paper. It's like eating dust as Sumerian legend tells you dead men do in the silent house of death.

Now I'll write a few recipes that are easy to make and don't take a lot of ingredients.


Ingredients: shelled nuts, milk, raisins, oatmeal.

Slice the nuts in small pieces, this should take 15-20 seconds if you have a good knife. Combine everything in a bowl and eat. Yes, oatmeal is uncooked.


Ingredients: oatmeal, filtered water, wholewheat bread, country crock spread.

Cook oatmeal, toast two slices of bread, put spread on them. Ready in 5 minutes.

Grain + steamed vegetables.

Ingredients: Grains could be buckwheat, rice (brown or white), beans or barley. You can mix rice with beans, too. Vegetables can be broccoli, string beans, asparagus (best!), cauliflower, you can add fresh leaves that Papaye ate, forget the name of them.. Buckwheat goes well with that same country crock spread, olive oil and diced salad olives; rice is good with soy sauce (try different ones, their taste range is rather wide); beans are good with the spread. You can add mushrooms and chopped onions and minced garlic, bay leaves, a bit of other spices. Horseraddish & beets in those small bottles is good with buckwheat.

Cook grains; boil water first then add them, reduce heat to low (usually), rice should be left in the pan for 5 minutes after being done; boil water in a second pan which could be cheap because you'll only use it for boiling water, put a steam insert in it, add your vegetables to be steamed, reduce heat to low (medium sometimes makes them bitter, I think - I'm still investingating this, you see).


The "base" of the salad is 4 ingredients: iceberg lettuce, carrots sliced into very small pieces, celery and cucumbers. Getting the ratio right is something of a black magic.. You can add a lot of other things, most importantly some virgin olive oil. But get the basic formula right first (with oil), then go into wild experiments.

For dessert you can do fruits or mix honey with chopped nuts.

Fruits and vegetables are much better in small mom&pop type fruit stores, vs. supermarkets.

Why, what a long post. Hope I didn't forget anything.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

Cutting boards (none / 0) (#188)
by /dev/niall on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 12:53:59 AM EST

Cutting board is important, too. Cheap ones absorb moisture and their surface gets bent out or in, which makes it hard to make a clean cut. Unfortunately, a good large wooden board costs $70-$100, by catskill or john boos.. You can get a cheaper plastic one, though, for about $20. It has to be fairly big so that vegetable pieces don't spill out on the table.

If you've invested in a good knife, invest in a good wooden cutting board. Plastic ones will dull your knife.

Keep your board in good shape by treating it with mineral oil every couple of weeks. Never let it "air dry" after cleaning; always dry it completely.

When you're cutting, you may find it useful to put some drawer liner underneath it to stop it from slipping/moving around.

-- 报告人对动物
[ Parent ]

Re: plastic ones (5.00 / 1) (#197)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:28:54 AM EST

cooking.com sells ones that say they don't dull blades. I know this is kind of hard to measure.. The truth of course is that *all* boards dull knives, but plastic ones used to do much more dulling than wooden ones, and now they presumably learned to makes ones that don't dull blades as much.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Go ahead and "core, peel and slice" appl (none / 0) (#204)
by axxeman on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 11:21:34 AM EST

Personally, I eat them whole.

WHOLLY whole.

Including that little wooden bit.

Yeah baby.

Feminism is an overcompensatory drama-queen club, with extra dykes. ---- Farq
[ Parent ]

you are absolutely right (none / 0) (#217)
by mimon on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 01:09:28 AM EST

Yep - I am from perth.au, and when visiting the US find it difficult to deal with the levels of salt, sugar, and other flavour enhancers in USian food. By virtue of our climate, mix of european and asian influences on our culture and agricultural practices, fresh high-quality ingredients are par for the course. I was struggling to find real 100% orange juice, breakfast cereals that weren't painfully sweet, and raw ingredients that hadn't already been processed in some way "over there".

The comment that your tastes adjust to the levels of fats/sugars/additives/etc. in the foods you regularly eat is true, as the level of fat in a big mac now makes me feel uncomfortable while eating it. Still, it doesn't stop me, when I am heading home in the wee small hours and I am hungry. There's a time and a place for everything, I suppose.

Then again, my wife loves to cook, and we have a well equipped kitchen (Wusthof Trident knives, Le Creuset panware, Magimix processor, etc.); needless to say, I eat *really* well. Hmmm, can't exactly claim that I am losing weight under this regime ...  

The sense of wellbeing that you have after a lovingly prepared, tasty meal, coupled with the satisfaction in being a part (small part, in my case) of it's preparation is hard to match. Hope you're feeling jealous!

i'm thinking about creating a pro-MS discussion site ... maybe I'll call it \.
[ Parent ]

Knife religious wars (none / 0) (#227)
by epepke on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 03:52:10 PM EST

If it's not a Sabatier carbon steel knife, it's not a knife.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
iceberg lettuce? (none / 0) (#246)
by gatekeep on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 11:46:39 AM EST

I was with you all the way until you suggested using iceberg lettuce for a salad. Seriously? Try romaine, green or red leaf.. you'll pay a little more but I find that not only is there more usable lettuce in a head, it's much tastier and less watery.

[ Parent ]
Could be... (none / 0) (#251)
by Rainy on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 06:27:54 PM EST

I only began making salads 2 months or so ago. Until very recently, I thought iceberg lettuce is cabbage :-). I tried romaine lettuce but I only added a very little bit of it, I'll try to replace iceberg with it as you suggest. Thanks!
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
iceberg has.. (none / 0) (#259)
by ChannelX on Tue Jun 18, 2002 at 06:18:06 PM EST

...no redeeming nutrional value. Romaine is very good. some of the others are definitely an acquired taste.

[ Parent ]
I tried it and it's *great* (none / 0) (#263)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 12:55:35 AM EST

The subject line says it all. I think I tried romaine + green + carrots + celery. I'm not too sure it was green lettuce, but something similar, anyway.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Spinach salad! (none / 0) (#262)
by kestrel13 on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 10:32:31 PM EST

I looove spinach salad. Eat it most every day. Can be anything from just baby spinach leaves with some form of vinagrette dressing (soy vinagrette being my favorite, followed by raspberry) to having tomatoes, sunflower seeds, a little bit of egg, portabella mushroom...anything. :) Healthy, and you get your iron, which is something you need esp. if you're vegetarian like me.

[ Parent ]
Thanks (none / 0) (#264)
by Rainy on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 12:56:59 AM EST

Thanks for the ideas. I'll try them out. I always eat salad with only green leafy vegies, carrot, cucumber (sometimes) and extra virgin olive oil (ALOT). I'll try your ingredients.. how do you make the dressing?
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Well, it depends. (none / 0) (#265)
by kestrel13 on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 01:46:31 AM EST

Vineger and oil, for a simple one. Can add things to that like a big of mustard seed, but I don't usually. I haven't really made the other kinds, as I get them in the caf at school or buy them. ;)

[ Parent ]
no lettuce (none / 0) (#266)
by mpalczew on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:23:47 PM EST

I find that salads without lettuce are the best. Fresh vegtables only, they offer much more taste and much more nutrition, most lettuces offer very little in terms of anything.

Try cucumber, tomato, green pepper, red pepper, green onion, and any other vegtable you may fancy.

For dressing use oil and vinegar, you can add a little sour cream if you aren't a vegan, and you probably should add salt, pepper, and spices such as basil, oregano, thyme.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

knives (none / 0) (#252)
by tornadron on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 07:54:09 PM EST

Mistake #2: A knife is a knife, right? No. A knife is not a knife. Well, I mean, it is BUT a knife is more important than all other kitchen tools combined. A good knife keeps edge for a long time, has good balance and a good handle that won't fall off. A good all-around chef's knife costs at least $40-50. You won't go wrong with one from Global or Henckels - Global vegetable knife costs $70-100 though. For fruits you need a paring knife, a good one is $20-30. I don't eat meat myself so I can't say what you'd need for that. Two knives - a vegetable and a paring knife - are good enough for making vegetarian meals for me.

it is absolutely not necessary to spend so much on a knife...if you live close to a large city...find a restaurant supply store where you'll be able to find decent chefs knives for well below $40-50. You can find ones made by the same quality manufacturers such as Henkels--they use the same blades but just don't look as fancy...the handles will usually be plastic. If they are good enough for restaurants they are good enough for home use. No need to splurge if you don't want to---nothing like holding a really badass lookin' knife in your hand though.

[ Parent ]
The Cook (none / 0) (#195)
by snowlion on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:18:52 AM EST

I'm just curious; Have you ever heard of or read a book called, "The Cook", by Henry Kressing?

An unrecognized classic.

(I'd email this, but the email address was not available.)
Map Your Thoughts

Love good food but have zero patience? (4.00 / 1) (#196)
by Fantastic Lad on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:21:24 AM EST

Then you're like me.

Food preparation is like painting, with the exception that finished product after you put the paints away and wash your brushes, is that you have a painting, and not a bunch of dirty dishes and the need to repeat the process 24 hours later.

I can make a damned fine meal. I love to cook, and I've impressed the hell out of people with the things I've made in the past. Problem is, after conjuring an excellent meal, (sweat, blood, love & tears), I don't really feel the need to repeat the process. Ever. After preparing fish in a certain way, it's done. I've done it. I'll do it completely differently next time, but I get bored so fast that repeat performances are a rare bird.

Basically I get bored so fast in the kitchen doing grunt work that I consider boiling water a giant hassle.

Problem is, having long out-grown the idea that eating lousy food is acceptable, my body and taste buds can no longer tolerate machine-made, garbage-ingredient convenience food.

So. . .

How do I manage to eat tasty food which is good for me?

Let me share one of the fastest damned recipes on the planet; something which tastes better, and is better for you, and most importantly, is easier to make than anything which lives in the freezer and which has microwave directions on the side.

Slice one banana into a bowl. Drop in two big spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt, (with no artificial ingredients). Pour a handful of ground wallnuts and roasted unsalted sunflower seeds over top. Mix. Voila. Enjoy with a glass of cold filtered water.

While there are some elements of bad food combining here, (starch from the banana mixed with milk and nut proteins), I find that unlike other starch combos, this dish doesn't make me tired at all. Perhaps this has something to do with the enzyme content in the yogurt. Beats me.

Anyway, aside from the fact that this meal is filling, nutritionally good, and faster to make than a cup of coffee, it's for all intents and purposes a light desert. And desert for breakfast is okay in my book!


-Fantastic Lad

Just a few things (3.50 / 2) (#198)
by thirstyfish on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:35:44 AM EST

I buy the pre-peeled garlic, and fill the jar with olive or cooking oil to keep the bulbs from oxydizing and use the oil for general pan frying.

Just got into taking the nearly empty peanut butter jar, throwing some broth or coconut juice in, scrape the peanut butter into the liquid to clean the jar, and cook it all up with some Thai spices and veggies.

Use the tins of Thai spices instead of powders.  Much better and ususally imported, they seem to be a bit hotter too.  I also add fresh lemongrass (trying to grow my own) and other stuff for flavor.

I've had a sourdough culture growing for years, but have had trouble getting the texture of the bread right, something to do with the kneading I suspect, however for for soda breads using the culture is great because the acidity reacts with the baking soda.  Thanks to my dad for that idea.

Finally, for beans, get a pressure cooker.

Texture (none / 0) (#220)
by jolly st nick on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 10:16:22 AM EST

Exactly what is wrong with the texture? What are you aiming for, and what are you getting?

Without knowing more, it's hard to say what's happening. One thing that is important though is to do a good job sifting. People underestimate this. Sifting puts air into the flour. When the leavining (yeast, bacterial or chemical) produces gas, it collects in air pockets already present, so a good sifting produces a lighter more consistent texture.

[ Parent ]

Be careful with this...... (none / 0) (#241)
by hawthorne on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 02:29:46 AM EST

Garlic stored in oil is an ideal botulinum breeding ground. This is nasty stuff. While using the oil for frying is probably safe (as long as you heat it to sufficiently high temps) the garlic itself may well not be.

[ Parent ]
Yessir (5.00 / 1) (#200)
by MMcP on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 10:14:41 AM EST

Okay, after I got through this sentence I found this article readable:  

>>An ancillary casualty to the quality of food is
>>its nutritional value.

Let's ignore how word choice generally confuses the purpose of this sentence.  High quality food is pretty bad for you too.  Have you ever eaten at a French restaurant?  Chefs know how to make food good - It involves lots of butter and sugar.

I think you may be missing the bigger picture... (5.00 / 1) (#216)
by tthomas48 on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 11:53:08 PM EST

While you can sit there and make a chart of how many calories each contains, etc. Those sort of charts only show half the picture. While I've never done all the math, I do know that if I eat my favorite recipie, Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken, I go through 8oz of goat cheese, 4 chicken breasts, and 2 sticks of butter, plus some vegtables. I'm quite sure that's an enormous amount of calories, but I'm full until the next morning, and often after that. I also have more energy. Compare that to eating my favorite McDonalds meal of a 20 piece Chicken McNuggets with an enormous fries, etc. I'm pretty sure they manage to weigh in fairly closely on the numerical calculations, but I'm hungry in two hours. Obviously we oversimplify the way the human body actually uses the food it consumes, when we reduce it to simply a matter of burning x number of calories and y grams of fat. (And yes I know I have an insane metabolism, but my wife lost weight once I started cooking meals like the above for her and eating out less.)

[ Parent ]
not quite (none / 0) (#258)
by ChannelX on Tue Jun 18, 2002 at 06:04:30 PM EST

High quality food does *not* equate to 'bad for you'. I'm not quite sure why you equate 'high quality' with 'French food' either. and not all French food is high in fat, etc. In my mind at least 'high quality food' means food prepared with quality ingredients whether its fattening or not.

[ Parent ]
Lorna Sass, eternal goddess (none / 0) (#211)
by joeclark on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 05:09:06 PM EST

You absolutely cannot go wrong with Lorna J. Sass's cookbooks, particularly Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen. You definitely need a pressure cooker to make her recipes work, but on the other hand, you get black bean soup in 15 minutes and coconut-milk rice pudding in eight. Her savoury muffins are particularly interesting. Strongly recommended.

Some utensils (4.00 / 2) (#212)
by ZairTheWise on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 05:33:35 PM EST

Othe indispensable utensils:
* Wooden spoons. If I need to stir homemade sauces and soups, wooden spoons are my choice
* A large "soup spoon" (as they call it where I come from, I'm not sure if it's the correct trranslation). It's that thing used to fill your soup plate/bowl from the pan you cooked you soup in
* Can opener. If you do tomato sauces as I do, you're eventually going to have to buy tomato paste from time to time, and it comes in cans usually. Don't get an electric can opener - It's a hell to clean
* Something to flip stuff. Thongs for steaks and the likes, a spatula for most of the other stuff
* Bread knife. Long, straight, thinly serrated (small teeth) knife, about an inch thick
* As for the chopping borads, you'll need at least one plastic one and one made out of wood. Use the wooden one to cut herbs and stuff that is mainly dry, and the plastic one for meats and stuff that would get impregnated into the wood. Strong point for the plastic cutting board is that it is washabe and will keep odourlesss, strong point for the wooden board is that you can sand it and it will be almost as new
* A set of sieves. You'll need a plastic one to drain your pasta and vegetables, and one made out of wire mesh to filter flour and the likes (if you ever made a cake, you know what I mean)
* Plastic or ceramic repositories. To put your stuff in once it's done. Plastic for if you're going to store food in the freezer, ceramic if you're going to put it in the fridge or for serving on the table.

Stuff not to get:
* Whetstone. Leave the sharpening to people who know how to do it. It pays off, first by keepting your tools sharp (and thus helping you to prevent finger cuts by not having to force your way through the food), and second by increasing the longevity of your utensils. On the same lines, serrated blades are not a good idea imho. The only knives in my kitchen that are serrated are the bread knife and the fish knive
* Pans covered in teflon. If you want a non-stick pan, get a stainless steel or carbon steel one - they heat better, and have the same "nonstickness level" as teflon if you keep them clean. Plus you can let stuff get "toasty (let them burn slightly) for extra crunchyness, and then scrape the cruncy stuff off (NEVER EVER scrape teflon - it's poisonous). Also, you'll need plastic or wooden utensils to work with a teflon-covered pan to minimize scratching

I'm sure I forgot a few, and I'm also sure that there are exceptions to the rules (like steak knives - they're usually serrated, and if you can get "Tramontina" brand (they're from Brazil iirc) the better. However, I believe that a good steak shouldn't need steak knives because a good steak should be to be buttery soft, even when well-done)

Also, as someone else already said, only baking is based on exact recipes. Oven tom cooking is more of an art than a science, and it sometimes even pays off to make mistakes. Most of the time, quantities are variable (there is a term where I come from, "ojímetro", which roughly translates into "eye meter" - If it looks like the right quantity, then it just might be the right quantity). And since not all people have the same taste (cooking would be boring indeed if that were the case), using a different amount than in a recipe can make things much tastier for yourself.
Cooking also brings along a good deal of experimentation - I never thought it would be a good Idea to mix beer and apples, but It happens to make a GREAT dessert if you cook apple slices in beer and then sprinkle them wiht a bit of sugar.

Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is the better defense

Steak (1.00 / 1) (#224)
by TheSleeper on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 11:01:16 AM EST

However, I believe that a good steak shouldn't need steak knives because a good steak should be to be buttery soft, even when well-done)

I disagree. With steak, there's generally something of a a tradeoff between tenderness and flavor. Cuts that have a stronger, more savory flavor tend to be less tender, and cuts that can come out nice and tender tend to have less flavor. So given that, it's really a question of what tradeoff between flavor and tenderness you prefer.

[ Parent ]

Is that so? (none / 0) (#235)
by ZairTheWise on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 11:18:24 PM EST

I've never noticed any tradeoff between tenderness and flavor on the cuts I use. Then of course, mine might be the exception and yours the rule. I just don't think that well prepared meat should be hard as leather, and that a serrated knive is overly indispensable for cutting steak. And also did mention that there are good serrated knives. So what's my point? Even tho I'm probably wrong about the steak knives issue, the non-serratedness rule still applies in the kitchen area.

Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is the better defense
[ Parent ]
Try a thick porterhouse (none / 0) (#240)
by epepke on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 01:28:09 AM EST

Either side of the bone will have distinctly different flavor and texture.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Jamie Oliver - The Naked Chef (none / 0) (#229)
by mudrat on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 04:25:24 PM EST

Some of the best cook books around are Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef series. As a poor student, I have only managed to afford Return of The Naked Chef, but his first is equally good. Oliver's recipes are not for beginners, but rely on you having a decent feel for what you are cooking. The recipes are easy, but exact measurments are not given, it is left to the user to tweak them for taste. People who have been cooking for a year or more should have no problem at all. The other bonus is the fact that the books are really funny. I actually lauged out loud while reading a cookbook. Trust me - if you have been cooking for a year or more, invest in one of his books. They are filled with great food, great humour and amazing photos. I made a three course meal out of Return of The Naked Chef for lunch this afternoon. The ingredients were expensive, but much cheaper than all of us eating out (my shopping bill came to R300, er, $30). The food was excellent and on a par with pretty much anything you can buy out. ---------------------------------- In Memoriam. Soweto. 16 June 1976.

Jamie Oliver - The Naked Chef (none / 0) (#230)
by mudrat on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 04:25:57 PM EST

Some of the best cook books around are Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef series. As a poor student, I have only managed to afford Return of The Naked Chef, but his first is equally good.

Oliver's recipes are not for beginners, but rely on you having a decent feel for what you are cooking. The recipes are easy, but exact measurments are not given, it is left to the user to tweak them for taste. People who have been cooking for a year or more should have no problem at all.

The other bonus is the fact that the books are really funny. I actually lauged out loud while reading a cookbook. Trust me - if you have been cooking for a year or more, invest in one of his books. They are filled with great food, great humour and amazing photos.

I made a three course meal out of Return of The Naked Chef for lunch this afternoon. The ingredients were expensive, but much cheaper than all of us eating out (my shopping bill came to R300, er, $30). The food was excellent and on a par with pretty much anything you can buy out.

In Memoriam. Soweto. 16 June 1976.

my mom can't cook (none / 0) (#231)
by auraslip on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 05:13:04 PM EST

My can't cook and I'm a vegitarian, so I used to just find something to eat on my own (which usally turned out to be ramen with tomato sauce). But now that I have a girlfreind, I can eat at her house becuase her mom cooks good food for me (and the 7 other people, including 2 vegitarians).
I highly recommend a finding yourself a good girlfreind that enjoys cooking, or at least one that has a mom that enjoys cooking. If you get a bad girlfreind, they will often get mad at you for eating at their house, were as a good ones will enjoy your company.
Remeber quality over quantity.
If you like the girl (none / 0) (#232)
by jolly st nick on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 05:43:34 PM EST

make sure you help her mom with the dishes.

Also, what's sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose; women should seek men who enjoy cooking. I'd bet a man who cooks well has a considerable advantage over one with washboard abs.

Bottom line: good cook == desirable mate.

[ Parent ]

yeah... (none / 0) (#260)
by auraslip on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 05:44:43 AM EST

I do my dishes when I'm over there, sometimes I'll do other peoples if no one else is around. And I'm getting on to the cooking thing.....
[ Parent ]
websites (5.00 / 2) (#234)
by meatsack on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 10:31:04 PM EST

I'm suprised nobody has mentioned this yet (or if they have ctrl-f didn't find it). There is a wealth of info on net, I don't need books at all. I just started cooking a month ago, and I surf during the day for recipes, then buy my food after work, and just cook it. Its really convenient.


The second link is useful especially if you live in foreign countries. I'm in Japan, and finding ingredients is really a bitch because I can't find them and asking is tough because they are called different things. Tweaking recipies is something I have gotten really good at.

The first link is great, just goto the recipies section. It has all the old recipies from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines. They are suprisingly easy to follow.

What worked for me... (none / 0) (#242)
by Drownedrat on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 06:28:17 AM EST

back in the days of yore while at university (well mid nineties anyway) a group of my friends decided that living on pot noodles might not be so cunning. Most UK unis have wednesday afternoons free for sports so the wednesday meal group was formed. Over the years the members have changed (and recently the day) but the principal remains.

The group consists of about 8 members who take it in turn to cook on a rota basis. It had to be a proper meal, usually 3 course.

This had the effect that most of us are now reasonable to good cooks, and you know at least once a week you'll get a good meal.

A more recent benefit is that you actually get to spend some time with people, which seems increasingly rare as people marry off & jobs take over our working lives. Never a problem at uni, but things change.

I'd definately recommend this to anyone in a similar situation.


not only cooking (none / 0) (#244)
by dinu on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 08:24:00 AM EST

I love to cook. I love to cook healthy stuff. But the next thing to this is: I am going to grow my own food. Bsicaly I got a small terain just outside town after building a small home on it I am going to grow my own vegetables and fruits. All naural with no pesticides and chemicals.

Start simple (none / 0) (#249)
by jamessiddle on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 03:33:48 PM EST

If you want to get into cooking, start by learning how to cook a French Omelette, easy, fun & exquisite tasting.

Better Homes and Gardens? (none / 0) (#253)
by Witt on Tue Jun 18, 2002 at 12:12:23 AM EST

Maybe it's just a Canadian thing but Better Homes and Gardens has to be one of the best all-round, easy to follow cookbooks I've ever used.

If you're looking for it in a bookstore, you may see two versions: 1 in a binder, and one in a normal book binding. Get the one in the binder, even if it costs more. The binder lays much flatter than the normal bound one, and I find the pages in the binder version to be more spill resistant (good for messy cooks like me).

As far as I know, the recipes in the two are identical, but I could be wrong.

Oh, and excellent article. People I work with are seemingly shocked that I bring in leftovers to work every day instead of eating at the cafeteria. I find cooking to be good stress relief, and bringing leftovers so I have a yummy, hot lunch at work is worth every second I spend in the kitchen.

Trust your technolust
-- Jeremiah

Watched *Diva* one too many times, eh? (none / 0) (#268)
by CRConrad on Mon Jul 29, 2002 at 04:55:40 PM EST

the experience of taking a nice crusty baguette out of the oven and smearing a gob of golden butter on its tender, steaming insides [...]
Ah, yeah, "Zen in the art of buttering bread".

IIRC, it goes something like, "the butter disappears, then the bread disappears, finally the knife itself disappears, and nothing remains but the rythmic movement."

Or *something* like that. (Hey, it must be at least a dozen years since I saw it last!)

      Christian R. Conrad

I live in Finland.
follow your nose (none / 0) (#269)
by littledriel on Fri Aug 09, 2002 at 03:50:18 AM EST

the one piece of advice I'd give to any aspiring chef is that if it smells good, it will taste good. The way I got into cooking was by trying to recreate my favorite foods at home, starting at the simplist.

Making your own burritos and tacos is so easy its ridiculous. Japanese Miso soup, stir-fry and anything pasta are also a good place to start.

Reaching out to different nationalities will help give you a feel for what flavors really define a food, after you get that you can start experimenting. Learing to make tacos springs to enchilidas (sp?), etc. Roll with what you like and don't be afraid to botch a few meals, you can always get a pizza if it's that bad.

btw, here's the best cookie dough recipe I've ever heard:

(combine in this order for best results)
1 cup melted butter (2 sticks usually)
3/4 brown sugar
3/4 white sugar
(stir together)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups of flour
chocolate chips

bake 350 for approx 15 minutes (always check things in the over early so they don't get ruined)


without confrontation, there is no postation -Felixxxxxxxxxxx
The Pleasures of Cooking | 269 comments (258 topical, 11 editorial, 2 hidden)
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