True Kitchen Confessions

I am sure she didn’t mean to create a meme.

But, after reading Amy’s amusing (and somewhat familiar) culinary confessions over at Cooking With Amy, I decided that it might be a good idea for me to ‘fess up to a few things concerning my kitchen habits and cooking adventures.

Like Amy, I’ll invite others to post their own confessions as they feel moved to (rise up and testify brothers and sisters–can I hear an “amen?”) in the comments section; I understand it is quite cathartic.

Barbara’s True Kitchen Confessions:

As I mentioned on Amy’s comments, I like fried bologna sandwiches with onions and hot sauce. Or at least, the last time I had one I did. I haven’t eaten one in years because I don’t go out of my way to buy bologna, even the good kosher stuff with lots of garlic. That, and I don’t want Zak to divorce or disown me for how my breath smells afterwards.

I read cookbooks more than I cook from them. Why is this? Well, I think I may be constitutionally incapable of following any recipe exactly–this both caused problems and served me well in culinary school. Luckily, most of my chefs respected my experience and independent nature and let me go my own way, succeeding or failing on my own merits. (The fact that I nearly always succeeded probably helped.) Besides–when I do follow recipes from cookbooks exactly–I more often than not have a critical failure, and very often, I could see it coming and went against my instincts and followed the recipe anyway. And then, disaster, or at least a mess.

So why do I read the cookbooks–because they are fascinationg social documents that tell me much about how people live, eat, work, play and interact within a given culture. That, and while I may never cook exactly from them, I use cookbook recipes as springboards to create delicious food.

I have many cookbooks which I have never cooked from directly, but which I will not let go of because they are such good documents of social and personal history.

I talk to the food while I cook.

This too, caused some issues in culinary school, because the other students thought I was nuts. However, more than one chef instructure told them to leave me alone, because it obviously worked for me and the food, because the results were excellent. And more than one chef, I will notice, muttered to his ingredients while working with them.

It is akin to a Witch’s incantation over a brewing cauldron, I suspect.

Besides, if people think you are nuts, they won’t bug you, which is sometimes a precious thing in an overcrowded, very busy, bustling kitchen.

I will eat anything (except brains) once or twice before declaring I don’t like it. Even sea cucumber and jellyfish. (The former I don’t much care for and the latter I love.) Even scary-looking things have been happily tasted and generally, later, adored.

Any food item which is mucousy in texture is apt to engage my gag reflex, but I can overcome it if whatever it is tastes absolutely wonderful. Good sea urchin sushi (unagi) is a perfect example–the first time I had it, I didn’t realize it had the texture of raw egg yolk, and I had put the entire piece of sushi in my mouth. The owner of the sushi bar, who had suggested I try it was standing over me–and I dare not show that my throat was trying to reject it wholesale in front of her–I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. So I forced it down, and once it was down, analyzed the flavor–which was deeplypceanic with a tang of iodine. I decided I liked it, and ate the second piece with glee, and many smiles to the nice sushi bar lady.

I like to read culinary reference books for fun. You know, like The Oxford Companion to Food, Larousse Gastronomique and On Food and Cooking. Reading stuff that makes other people go to sleep while sipping good coffee is an evening’s high entertainment for me. No wonder the kids at culinary school gave me the nickname, “The Culinary Nerd,” a label which I wore proudly.

I’ll put chiles in anything, including brownies and chocolate truffles.

I’ll put garlic in nearly anything.

I will feed whosoever shows up at suppertime; there is almost always enough to go around, and if there isn’t, I will improvise. No one leaves my table hungry. No one, no way, no how.

I like working in soup kitchens and feel it is a holy mission to do so, and I think anyone who feeds the poor and hungry get more out of it than the people they serve, though in a less tangible way.

I hoard food. Where this comes from, I am not certain. Partially it is because of my farmer grandparents’ teachings of self-reliance and the necessity of having food “to fall back on.” Maybe it is because both sets of grandparents lived through the Depression. Maybe it was because my Dad was laid off for a year and we ate a hell of a lot of beans and it got monotonous. Maybe I just saw “Gone With the Wind” too many times, and Scarlett’s declaration, “As God as my witness, I swear I will never go hungry again!” became a part of my psyche. I don’t know, but I do tend to have an overstocked larder, and thus, almost always have something I can cook up at any given time into any given dish.

I have about eight different kinds of chile peppers in my freezer. There can never be too many chiles. End of story.

I do use some few packaged processed food items like ramen from time to time in order to make a quick meal or snack. I don’t feel guilty about it, either. Okay, well, not too guilty.

I am generally very frugal and try to use leftovers as creatively as possible. What we do not eat goes to our dogs, though I confess that I rather wish that they were hogs instead of dogs, because then, we could slaughter and eat them, and finish the food recycling circle.

My cats are terrible for getting up on tables and counters. I try to stop them from doing this to no avail, though in truth, they have been trained not to do in front of me. Which means that they mostly stay down on the floor when I am cooking, but if I should leave the room and not return promptly, they may ravage whatever is left in their reach. Therefore, I leave no foods out that they can get into.

I sometimes thaw things out by leaving them in warm water in the sink. I know it is bad, I should use cold water, but well, I do it anyway. This from a woman who made more than a 100% in her Food Safety class in culinary school. My chefs would be ashamed.

I do not always do the dishes right away, and sometimes my kitchen is a wreck.

I do not always wash my woks as soon as I empty them, and sometimes the seasoning suffers for it; however, I am getting better about washing them as I soon as I scrape the food onto the serving platter. I just nab a bite while it still has wok hay, scrub and slap the wok on the stove to dry. This actually is time saving; food is easier to clean off while the wok is still hot.

My refrigerator sometimes spawns science experiments, meaning sometimes things get forgotten and it turns into who knows what. Sometimes my refrigerator is downright scary and most of my chef-instructors would want to take a wooden spoon to me for it–things I would never do in a restaurant I will do at home. Oh, well.

I probably drink too much coffee.

I probably eat too much chocolate.

I should probably try and lose some weight, but am not likely to.

I keep meaning to write a cookbook, but never quite get around to it, because I don’t know what I would focus on. Any suggestions in this area are appreciated.

I love teaching other people how to cook, and love nothing more than to see a student excel at a new-found skill. It all comes down to the old proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In my universe, the proverb goes thusly, “Cook a man a meal and you feed him for a day, teach him to cook and you feed him and his family and friends for a lifetime.”

Rachel Ray’s media saturation and her voice work my nerves, but her basic mission, which is to reach out to the folks who don’t have time to cook elaborate meals and generally eat frozen crap or takeout and get them to cook for their families makes me admire her nonetheless. I can’t help it–I cannot knock a woman who holds that ideal central to herself–I cannot help but think we are kindred spirits. Even if she is so perky it hurts.

I don’t really like the Food Network anymore, and haven’t for a long time.

Emeril makes me grind my teeth because his personality is so grating, however I love Anthony Bourdain. He makes me laugh, and his personality, while arrogant, is more akin to my own. He isn’t bombastic, just plain-spoken and his incisive comments generally are spot-on.

I used to be anorexic. Being pregnant with Morganna cured me of this, but I always fear its return. Also–I hate to see bulemic and anorexic people hurt themselves in this way, and I go out of my way to speak out against such behaviors whenever I see them.

I don’t drink wine very often and know very little about it because I just don’t get into it. That is a hard one to admit–but there we are. I think it comes down to the fact that while I like some of it, and some of it tastes good, I just don’t see the big deal about studying up on it, because I don’t see a lot of difference in the flavors of it. Also, I have a skin condition known as rosacea which is triggered by drinking wine, so I just don’t bother very often. And why read about something that I can’t regularly drink for fear of turning my face into a big red explosion?

I don’t like food snobs. I don’t know how else to say it, but I came from the lower-middle class. And as a farmer’s granddaughter, I know perfectly well that folks who grow the food know damned good and well what good food tastes like, and eat just as well or better than a lot of folks who are much more well off. I don’t like declarations that this or that recipe is “the best” for any given item (which is why Cook’s Illustrated sometimes bugs the crap out of me), nor do I care for people who look down on those less fortunate for eating “crap,” when more often than not, it is all that person can afford. I do applaud those who try to make good quality food available to those who do not have much money, such as the farmers who take WIC coupons at our Farmer’s Market here in Athens.

I don’t like food writers who make unqualified claims or who don’t do enough research before making sweeping generalizations. That bugs me as much as food snobbery does.

I hate the taste of caviar, but I do like salmon roe.

Dom Perignon really does taste good, my rosacea be damned.

I adore raw fish and good quality raw beef, and will eat it when the opportunity presents, even if there is some risk of doing so. (Last night, when I trimmed the silverskin from the whole beef tenderloin, I ate some slivers of it raw. It was to die for, but hopefully not literally.)

I love tofu, but only as itself. I don’t very often like it masquerading as something else, like ice cream, hot dogs or turkey. Tofurky is not a good thing, in my opinion. It is scary.

The idea of meats cloned in a lab vat does not bother me, but genetically modified corn, which is wind-pollinated and thus can contaminate fields of organically grown, non-GMO corn, does piss me off to no end.

Luther Burbank is one of my heroes, as is Norman Borlaug. Don’t know who they are? Plant breeders, essentially, who have helped supply a lot of food to a lot of people. (No, I don’t think that all genetic monkeying with food is bad. I dislike knee-jerk fear of GMO’s.)

Julia Child is my own personal patron saint. Without her influence no one would be writing food blogs in America today. I firmly believe that without her, we would probably still be eating Campbell’s soup casseroles and following the lead of Poppy Cannon. Who is Poppy Cannon? Exactly.

Finally–I do wish we could really come together and feed everyone in the world. I know that it is horrendously idealistic of me, but there we are. I hate to see anyone go hungry.


RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. I used to feel the same way you do about tofu, then a friend of mine stopped being able to digest milk products. She started having to use soy milk instead in her recipes, and to eat soy ice cream. She searched around until she found a good one, admittedly, and I’m going to try to make a good soy ice cream for her myself. It’s not all vile stuff.

    Comment by Dakiwiboid — November 3, 2005 #

  2. Then maybe I have only run across the icky ones and not the good ones.

    So far I will take your word for it, though–what is the brand she likes–just for general knowledge’s sake?

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 3, 2005 #

  3. I’ll ask her. I know she likes Silk for soy milk, and I think that she likes Soy Dreams ice cream.

    Comment by Dakiwiboid — November 3, 2005 #

  4. Fantastic Barbara! I’ve loved reading Amy’s and David’s answers, and yours no less! I might have to give it a go myself…

    Comment by Zarah Maria — November 3, 2005 #

  5. I’ve admired your blog for some time (and cooked a bunch of dinners from it as well), but with this post you’re now my food blog hero. Or heroine, if you’d rather.

    A lot of otherwise sensible people treat food issues (GMO, for example) as if reason had no place in the kitchen. You demonstrate a rational, nuanced approach.

    Others also behave as if everyone had unlimited money to throw into cooking. And as if I’d be better off not eating if you can’t cook up the ‘perfect’ recipe.

    Your declarations are inspiring and cheering. Also, I’m starting to plan my meals around your recipes. And I’m finally starting to get some kind of a clue about Chinese cooking, after years of cookbook browsing.

    So: Thanks.

    Comment by Victor — November 3, 2005 #

  6. Bravo, Barbara!
    I can only speak for myself, but the reason I read from cookbooks more than I cook from them is that there simply aren’t enough meals (or hours) in the day. I want to try every recipe from Martha or Thomas Keller, but end up tweaking and coming up with my own dishes in an effort to get to do both. Clearly, two cookbooks or chefs would not make such a problem, but when there are just so many very worthy recipes…

    Comment by Nic — November 3, 2005 #

  7. Hello again, Zarah–I am glad you enjoyed my confessions. I should probably write a couple of “supplemental entries” to the post in coming days, as I think of more things I should “fess up” to, but this is a pretty good list of things.

    I still need to go look at David’s list and should probably edit a link to his, too–I forgot it was his idea before it was Amy’s. Duh!

    Victor–thank you so very much for your kind words. I am glad to be inspirational, and I am even happier to hear that you have learned a lot about Chinese food from me. That is wonderful to know.

    I could say a lot about knee-jerk reactions to GMO’s, and food additives–I really think that a lot of these fears people have come from the lack of good solid science education in the US today. I also think that there is a strong streak of neo-luddite predilictions among some organic food believers–and I mean believers in the sense that they have very firm “beliefs” about food that may or may not be based in rationally understood facts.

    And no–I don’t believe people need unlimited funds to eat well. I am lucky in that I don’t have to scrimp all the time, but I come from a background of having to make do with little–and believe me–I still cooked delicious meals back in those lean years.


    You are right. I have a current collection of over 125 books on Chinese food and cooking. If I cooked just one recipe from each of them–it would take half a year of my life.

    No one has that kind of time!

    But while I cannot cook from them all–I can read them all, get ideas and synthesize great recipes from them by adding my very own twists to the dishes.

    I think that is more fun than following recipes exactly anyway.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 4, 2005 #

  8. I will feed whosoever shows up at suppertime; there is almost always enough to go around, and if there isn’t, I will improvise. No one leaves my table hungry. No one, no way, no how

    For which I am usually quite thankful;-)

    Comment by Dan Trout — November 4, 2005 #

  9. And I am quite thankful for your thankfulness, Dan!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 4, 2005 #

  10. thank you for caring.

    Comment by bulemic — November 7, 2005 #

  11. Unagi is eel, not sea urchin.
    Sea urchin is uni.

    Comment by Lesley — November 29, 2006 #

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress. Graphics by Zak Kramer.
Design update by Daniel Trout.
Entries and comments feeds.