Sunday, July 18, 2010

The meat and potatoes of cooking

Cooking isn’t that tough. One does not have to be a TV chef or even have attended some culinary academy – cooking is a combination of common sense, time management, and attention to the job at hand. Lacking these qualities will bring Natural Selection into play and you’ll be weeded out with the rest of the sick, weak, and stupid when you starve. Keeping it simple is also wise, especially if trying to break up the game of baseball your kids started with the cat in the living room, or updating your all important Facebook page.

Buy Fresh Eat Fresh

One can only prepare meals as good as what is put in to the pot. Stay to the outer edges of the market when shopping, pick up the freshest produce possible and buy what is in season. If things can be purchased from local farms, all the better – or even grow it yourself, but let’s just work on one challenge at a time. Barring that, frozen is the next best choice but be sure to allow time for thawing. No matter what one does that 22 pound turkey isn’t going to thaw over night. It all boils down (no pun intended) to the old computer adage, garbage in, garbage out. In other words starting with good wholesome ingredients will serve a cook well. In fact cooking from “scratch” can be cheaper in the long run as the price of processed food, such as hamburger helpless, can add up to a lot more than if buying the ingredients one’s self. The cook also has the added luxury of knowing what went into the dish wasn’t created in Frankenstein’s lab, but can be found in nature.

Keep it simple

Don’t’ get delusions of grandeur and try to emulate that chef on TV. Sure it looks simple there, but that dude has about six toadies helping him off screen and everything is already done – notice they don’t use hot pads when they pull something out of the oven – it is all smoke and mirrors. A salad, meat, potatoes, and some veggies are easy to make as long as attention is paid to the job at hand. Never leave anything cooking on the stove untended. Keep the heat as low as possible – high heat just means things can spin out of control faster, it doesn’t mean dinner will be done sooner.

Time management

Get home from work late, the kids are running amok with sharp sticks in their hands, the dog just spewed on the carpet, lots of distractions and fatigue factors that can turn cooking into a real chore. Keeping it simple is one way to get around this, another is cooking ahead. Weekends can be a great time to cook meals in batches, freeze them and then just reheat throughout the week. Get the kids to help with some of the simpler kitchen chores – they’ll have to learn to cook sooner or later, though letting 3 year old Suzy operate the stove is probably bad idea. The days of dad going to work while mom does all the housework are pretty much dead and gone, so there’s nothing wrong with everyone pitching in to help with the meal.


While coming up with a decent meal is important, safety is even more so. No one is going to have time to eat that perfect chicken while the paramedics are there treating the cook for third degree burns. One must keep their wits about them (this gets back to paying attention) and ensure hot things and sharp things are managed properly to prevent injury. Another big part of kitchen safety is keeping it clean. If one doesn’t adhere to this rule, once again Mother Nature will step in with a rather painful lesson on why one can’t handle raw meat and then touch everything else in sight. Wash hands, work surfaces, tools, and keep meats apart from veggies. Veggies need a good wash before being peeled or cooked as well. Farmer Brown will pick them, but he doesn’t get paid to wash them.

As stated before it mostly boils down to common sense. Thinks things out prior to cranking up the stove and all will be well. Keep a clean kitchen, watch things on the stove so they don’t burn, boil over, or set the house afire. Buying the best freshest ingredients one can afford will go a long way to a successful meal. Cooking isn’t that tough, and in fact can be downright enjoyable (laugh if you must) and it is a necessary life skill. Don’t be afraid to crack a cook book, try simple dishes to build confidence and work through to the more complex dishes if time allows. And if all else fails make sure the number of a good pizza joint is posted prominently on the fridge.


At 7:31 AM, Blogger Ruela said...

very nice ;)

At 8:05 AM, Blogger dianne said...

Some great advice here Phossy dear, especially about clean hands and surfaces,washing vegetables, not handling raw meat then touching other foods and don't use the same cutting surface to slice vegetables etc, after cutting meat, raw chicken etc.
These are basic rules of hygiene but you would be surprised at how many people don't follow these practices.
I ordered a sandwich from a deli to take away, when the girl wiped the knife to cut my sandwich with a dirty dish cloth, I said no thanks you can keep your sandwich and explained a few things about clean practices, hygiene and bacteria on dishcloths. Yuk!!
xoxoxo ♥

At 11:49 AM, Blogger foam said...

so .... well..... i gather that scratching and then sniffing festering lesions and boils while cooking is a no, no? hnnnnn....

i reckon it's a good thing that i keep tons of phone #'s of take out food joints posted on the fridge.

At 4:44 PM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

The best advice was from my daughter, she hits the bathroom immediately on entering the restaurant - if there's no soap in the dispensers she leaves.

At 6:11 AM, Blogger evalinn said...

I like those principles!


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