Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

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We Do Not Need to be Chefs

I was watching the Gordon Ramsey show with the home cooks and relatively less yelling a while back (don’t judge me). It involves a group of contestants going through a whole bunch of challenges to test their mettle in high-stress cooking situations (feeding 101 cowboys in an outdoor setting! Reproducing a restaurant sushi dish in 60 minutes!) and a fair amount of crying.

It’s a fine show, but it reminds me of this thing that makes me kind of crazy, which is the chef-ification of home cooking.

Home cooks are not restaurant chefs. We don’t have to be restaurant chefs. Those are two different things. Why do people need restaurant-quality appliances in their kitchens? You are not cooking for hundreds of people every evening. Knife skills are great, but really, a lot less important when you’re cutting up 3 carrots versus a 30 pound bucket of carrots. I get my knives sharpened once a year if I’m feeling pretty on top of things. I don’t know that my Grandma ever sharpened her knives, she just bludgeoned her carrots. And she still made dinner!

And the measures of success are totally different in home cooking than restaurant cooking. Home cooking requires making one reasonably tasty, reasonably healthy meal for at most a handful of people most nights in the amount of time that you can manage or deem appropriate for cooking dinner. Fifteen minutes? Half an hour? An hour? Whatever. If you’re discussing the merits of Viking ranges, I’m guessing the amount you spend per pound on arugula doesn’t really matter. Meanwhile, it takes me forever to supreme an orange. Of course it does, I’ve supremed maybe 15 oranges in my entire life. And I pretty rarely get the timing just right so all the dishes are done at the same moment. Profit margins, speed, volume are all basically irrelevant as compared to restaurant cooking.

Which is not to say that there aren’t challenges in cooking dinner at home night after night. I certainly struggle with it these days, and even before the kid it could be a slog (“What do you want to have for dinner?” “I don’t know, what do we have?” “Some salad greens we have to eat, but I don’t feel like salad” “Are they even still good?” “I don’t know, is there anything else?” ad nauseum). But let’s not pretend that the challenges of cooking dinner would be solved by a fancy oven or familiarity with yuzu or incrementally better knife skills.

Filed under dinner things I think are ridiculous

  1. vrai-lean-uh posted this