Learning to Love Grown-Up Food…

Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on February 12, 2009

typewriter5 …or, This Was Supposed to be My Self-Congratulatory Masterpiece on My Awesome Red Snapper

          – A Guest Post by Third Bass


          I suppose I should start with the admission that this post is really just an amalgamation and extension of two Dr. Wizard directives for collegians: “Buy Organic Apples” and “Box Wine Isn’t Real.” Nevertheless, since my posts are geared for those of you who have recently graduated and are already well on your way to purchasing your first Volvo, I think it’s a good idea for me to add my two cents about the ways you can learn to love grown-up food. You see, what Dr. Wizard doesn’t cover in those two posts – because let’s face it, dorm food consists of three to four main staples (Ramen Noodles, Easy Mac, Pizza, and the Salisbury Steak that is being served in the dining hall that day) – is the art of culinary exploration. And once you’ve mastered the concept of purchasing produce that hasn’t been sprayed with poisonous pesticides and wine that comes in some form of glass container, and once you have matriculated from the dormitory to a living-space with a kitchen, it’s time to move one step further and to start enjoying the full spectrum of flavors, textures, and cultures that food can offer.

          As I write this post, I’m lunching on a homemade grilled Red Snapper with Black Olives, Capers, and Tomatoes while washing it down with a glass of Montes’s 2007 Malbec from the D.O. Colchagua Valley, Chile. Wait…actually…that’s a lie. Right now, I’m staring at a horribly charred piece of fish that was supposed to be a grilled Red Snapper – and consoling myself with a whole bottle of Malbec – because instead of paying attention in the kitchen, I was typing the previous sentence. So, lesson number one – when you spend good money on expensive fish at Whole Foods, and are about to tell people why they should be a better cook: don’t burn the fish.

anthony_bourdain32          Now, staring at this disaster, I know that I’ll have to open the fridge, and let me tell you, last night’s Chinese take-out reheated at 1200 watts for three minutes, and that two-liter of flat Cherry Coke suddenly look downright pathetic. And there are a few reasons for my completely explicable change in perception. First, because take-out sucks; and second, because someone else put in the work. Normally, I’m okay with a little delegating from time to time, but like I mentioned in the previous post about reading Ulysses, there is sometimes little that is more satisfying than completing an enormous and potentially overwhelming project. Fish, of course, shouldn’t be overwhelming – but nevertheless, my feeling of completion satisfaction has now been mangled. In this particular instance, because my dialing a phone last night and tipping a delivery guy was exponentially easier than preparing a meal for myself – and now, because I have to re-live that capitulation. Still, I’ll survive to fight another day – once I’ve cleaned the charred black gunk out of my frying pan.

          Where does this leave us? Well, I’m imploring you to start learning to cook. Sure, there will be some occasional disasters, but in the long run, you’ll be thankful that you’ve tried. Instead of watching American Idol auditions for two hours with a microwaved Lean Cuisine, we should all go to the market more often, get our hands on some fresh produce, head home, put on our Sam Cooke records, and enjoy the act of experimentation and creation in our horribly underused kitchens. If we do this, by the time Portrait of a Legend: Sam Cooke 1951-1964 hits track 16, “Bring it on Home to Me,” we’ll be ready to sit down with our sweetheart to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

          So tonight, why not head out to Borders to peruse their culinary arts section? Grab a coffee or tea from the café and hunker down for a couple hours after finding a cookbook you like, one that is simple enough that you’ll actually try some of the recipes featured in it. Personally, I really enjoy cookbooks that have a narrative accompaniment to the recipes so that I can learn something about the indigenous ingredients, traditional preparation, and local customs. This is also the reason that I watch No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain – well, that, and I like his snarky, no bullshit attitude – which, by the way, he would have turned on me in a heartbeat for trying to type this post while I should have been relaxing and preparing my lunch.

          And now, if I’ve inspired you at all to attempt a more intimate relationship with grown-up food, here’s a website to get you started.


2 Responses

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  1. Matt Biegacki said, on February 13, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Wait…Sam Cooke’s “Bring it Home to Me”…wasn’t that about getting tossed to the curb? Ah man, my cooking is getting me peaced…bummer.

    Anthony Bourdain is great…good shout out.

  2. chris said, on February 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Alton Brown is the reason I can cook, and the source of any food knowledge I possess. Good Eats may be the best show on Food Network

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