Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Plastic Wrap Star

After big holiday meals, my mother in law frequently requests that I do any wrapping that requires plastic cling wrap.  She seems to think I have magical powers, but wrapping things up snugly in plastic wrap is practically the first thing anyone learns in a professional kitchen.  A well wrapped container is a container safe from the normal jostling, rearranging and frenzied shuffling that is common in restaurants; it keeps the liquids contained and the contaminants firmly away.

I think the reason kitchen folk are so adept a handling plastic wrap is because everything in a kitchen needs to be done quickly and speed is the key to becoming a wrap star.

We've all seen the effect even a tiny puff of air has on the dangling edge of the wrap, it folds in on itself and adheres tightly so that it's almost impossible to separate them again.  Don't give the air time to puff!  Stretch out the length of wrap you require and tear if off quickly; immediately place the center over the wrappee...

Don't stop to think about this, just do it all in one fluid motion...

Now grab up those two free ends on either side and firmly tug them down and around, hopefully until they meet on the bottom.  Stretching plastic wrap out makes it more clingy, so be FIRM, and pull it tightly around the wrappee.

This entire process should take just a second or two, you have to move faster than the air.  It is not as hard as it sounds, I think you would be surprised at the number of complex things you do in just one or two seconds every day.

Ok, that's it!  It really is that easy, just be quick and be firm.  Much like Luke Skywalker in that drainage ditch on the Death Star at the end of Star Wars, see it happening first and then just do it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Raw Food

Raw food diets are the new big thing, articles are popping up everywhere breathlessly reporting the advent of a new age.  I've avoided reading numerous blogs, ads disguised as blogs and first person accounts of the wondrous results one can achieve by simply not cooking.


I opened a sandwich shop during the height of the Atkins craze, everyone told me it wouldn't work, that evil bread was over, done and not ever returning.  It was a difficult thing those first few months to hold my tongue, but I knew that bread would never be 'over'.

Atkins was a fad, raw food is a fad and fads don't last.  Let me tell you what does last: human nature.  It's human nature to not want to eat less than tasty food at every meal every day.   It's human nature to invent a useless product in order to make money and it's human nature to lunge at every shiny new thing dangled before us.

Am I making us look shallow and dumb?  More human nature for you.

There is no miracle diet, there is nothing new under the sun.  Including raw food.  This too will pass, probably fairly quickly because there is just no such thing as an uncooked creme brulee.  But a few charlatans will amass great wealth because of it anyway, those who got their cookbooks in under the wire or have an amazing juicer for you to purchase.

Let me remind you that my definition of a charlatan is someone who sells you a lifestyle choice instead of food.  Food is not your life people, it is the fuel that sustains your life, and giving food all the power over how you live is a fool's errand.

Fad diets are just another way for people to relinquish responsibility for their own lives.  I see you bristling out there, go ahead and raise those hackles, I'm more than happy to duke this out with you.  But you hide behind these diets as though a fairy tale ending waits on the other side, because you will finally be happy once those ten pounds are gone.

As if.  Fat people and thin people are unhappy in equal, self-loathing has no calories or fat does it?  True happy doesn't need or want a fad diet, true happy understands balance so please quit hiding from the happy.

True happiness and peace start on the inside, they start with you not hating on yourself for having a doughnut.    Food is not the villain, it's not the enemy and it's not your friend.  Food is fuel, plain and simple; it only has the power you give.

I had weight issues for most of my life so I'm not unsympathetic to those who still do.  But I have been neither fat nor thin for a while now, I reside in that happy medium place and rarely think about my weight at all.  Would you like to know my secret?  Happy to tell you and I would be deliriously happy if everyone followed this simple diet plan.

Approach yourself in the mirror three times daily and say, "You are fine just the way you are, you are a beautiful person and I really like you."

In ten days, you just won't care about diets anymore.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Food Fight

I love Hell's Kitchen, I love Gordon Ramsay.  LOVE!  I sent in a tape many years ago hoping to get on the show, ostensibly to bring publicity to the cafe, but Clyde knew the truth.  I just wanted to work with Ramsay, if only briefly, but I never heard back.

In retrospect, I'm not surprised.  I'm not a borderline psychopath and I have mad cooking skills.  Fox had no use for my kind, but it's all good and I still watch.

For now I still watch, but that could change, if the wrong scallop dies on the wrong night, it could change.  I am sorry Chef Ramsay, but you are in my sights today.

At least twice during any given season of HK, I turn to Clyde and ask sorrowfully, "That scallop gave up its life for this?"

It's not always the scallop, sometimes it's a cow or some other innocent protein, but the point is still the same.  Some creature had its life ripped away just so Gordon Ramsay could smash it angrily, hurl it against the wall and dump it unceremoniously into the trash.

That's great TV isn't it?  Seeing his face get all red, hearing him call someone completely unworthy of his time a donkey and then watching the food fly?  I'm with you right up until that last part.

Every season huge amounts of expensive food gets wasted on Hell's Kitchen and it is a punch in the gut to every starving person on the face of the Earth.  Oh my god, it has only been a brief moment in historical time that human beings have NOT had to forage and suffer just to find enough food to sustain themselves.  But we live in the modern era with bananas flown to our doorsteps daily and markets just bursting with foodstuffs.  We were born into plenty and in true human style, we pervert the hell out of it.

It is not just Gordon Ramsay, I single him out because I expect better from him.  He's not an idiot, he's not uncaring; I just don't think that he has given this topic any thought at all.  But he is far from the only example. How many people throng around that Kobayashi kid to watch him cram hot dogs down his gullet.

Competitive eating?  We are sick, sick species.

People in Spain throw tomatoes by the bushel for sport, we here in America chunk punkins for sport.  If you want real sport people, try fending for yourselves, try feeding yourselves every day as though the 7-11 is not there.  You won't get a stupid, useless trophy if you win though, you get to live because eating is a fundamental need of survival.

It's not always going to be the land of plenty, the milk and honey will stop flowing; that is the nature of life.  How are we looking in the karmic balance?  Will Mother Nature see our gluttony and end it for us?


I am trying to scare you, you need to get scared.  Why?  Because most of you do not know how to fend for yourselves, you have abdicated that responsibility to the food producers and will be helpless when they can no longer service your needs.

That can't happen to us?  You mean in our world of excruciatingly centralized food production?  The one where most of the world's food comes from a few breadbaskets tucked around the planet?   We are in more danger precisely because of that, when one of those tiny dominoes fall, all the rest of them come down too.

When that happens, when you are starving, your children starving, how will you remember Kobayashi and Ramsay?

It is not too late to take responsibility, for ourselves and our individual survival.  All it takes is a little respect, respect for the lives of the creatures we eat and respect for the natural balance of nature.  A little respect for ourselves should be thrown into the mix as well because, once again, competitive eating?

I conclusion, I have this to say to the future 'chefs' on Hell's Kitchen:

Use a non-stick pan with a little oil, get it nice and hot, but not to the point where the oil is smoking.  Place the scallops in the pan, season and cook for about one to two minutes, depending on size.  Flip gently, season, and cook on the other side another minute before gently pressing the middle of the scallop with the pad of your finger.  If the middle is still mushy, continue cooking for another 30 seconds, if it springs right back, it is done.  Take it to the pass, return to you station and  repeat.