5 Tips on Navigating the Kitchen Unlike a Pro.
Last week I wrote about finding sanity in a strongly food dominated world. Far from done on the matter, here are some tips on how to navigate the kitchen unlike a pro:
1. Marry someone that can cook.
B was fortunate enough to grow up in a house where chores were enforced. A concept so glorious in theory yet so difficult in reality. If you manage to gift your son with this skill, his wife will surely appreciate it. Especially if she is one of the few who needs to google the difference between a pot and a pan before sautéing onions.
Marrying someone who knew his way around the kitchen provided the buffer necessary to get my act together. I was given the time and space to let out all my rage towards the stupid system of measurement used in the United States, build a bridge, get over it, and move on. Nowadays work, prayer and learning commitments have minimized B’s involvement in the kitchen to the mere act of staring at the croutons whilst asking repetitively: “Mor have you seen the croutons?”
2. Minimize kosher food blogger stalking.
Unless flipping through photos of people’s picturesque vacations makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, it’s probably wise to minimize stalking of all forms. Were an account titled “Cooking Fails,” to be created, I doubt it would gain popularity. Instagram is for cosmetically appealing concepts. Not cakes that fell, briskets that overcooked and cholents that were left on “low.”
Its important to remember that people blogging about food are for the most part doing it for a living. Spending their life shopping, testing, tasting, and cleaning up (how come they never show that part?), is justifiable. Turn to them for inspiration and ideas, but don’t feel bad if your table resembles a kids birthday party more than a wedding banquet. Your guests will probably be at ease knowing spilled grape juice was part of the plan. One exciting dish per meal, I was once wisely advised. A tip that has turned out marvelously.
3. Don’t use recipes.
If it’s come to a point where you need to sit down and “read” a recipe I would back track. Mind-boggling recipes are not for the simpletons. Focus on ingredients and verbs (that is, “action words” for those who fell asleep in English class). Sauté then bake, marinate then fry, mix then steam, these are the kinds of “recipes” that have low risk factors, and its usually ideal if they come recommended by friends or family. Having said that, there is proof in the pudding (no pun intended), that baking is very much a step by step procedure, in which case a visit to the local bakery always works.
4. Know your limits.
It’s ok to ask for a recipe, and then give it back. It’s ok to really enjoy a dish, and then not recreate it yourself. It’s then also acceptable to google a cheat for an easier version. Anything really goes in the world of cooking, just not everything has to be said. No one is going to know if you use bottled lemon juice, unless off course you post it on the World Wide Web.
Recipes that start out promising, then slowly digress into directives that resemble dance moves, can be neatly tucked under the "When I have a live-in" file. Spend a week making sourdough bread or alternatively find a good friend that will sell you some of their's for cost price. The kitchen is your oyster and how you navigate it is entirely yours truly.
5. Get more help than you can afford.
I have often regretted buying the “Vu iz Shimi?” CD which promised to teach me Yiddish yet turned out to be quite creepy in more ways than one. Same goes for the bright blue Henri Bendel bag that has now made its way to the play room. But there has never come a time that I looked back and thought “hmm if only I had told the cleaning lady to come for less hours, maybe then I could finally get that personal trainer I've been dreaming of.” "Never" being in relation to that thought from beginning to end. This guilt is doubly reduced come Yom Tov and Shabbos. My mother, who being quite capable herself, never really understood the concept of needing “help.” Upon spending an entire Tishrei with our family, this opinion was swiftly reversed.
Even if you will be the next Betty Crocker albeit a kosher version, it’s ok to make mistakes, take short cuts and buy dessert occasionally. I still admire my friends who whip up meals with the ease my 3-year-old serves tea in her toy kitchen. But like everything in life, we are all growing at our own pace. An especially comforting concept for all aspiring balabustas.