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A Food Face


Best I can figure is that I have a food face. I was in the market the other day, looking for a good bunch of asparagus when the woman next to me asked, “How do you cook asparagus?” She went on to say, “My husband doesn’t like it so I’ve never cooked it, but I really like it and I decided to just buy some and make it for me.”

Boy, did she ask the right person. She got a five-minute class on asparagus right then there. How to trim the woody ends, why they should be saved for soup, the easiest way to cook it, the two easiest sauces to serve on it. I’m constitutionally incapable of not answering questions such as hers at length – albeit concisely.

I get asked such questions all the time at the grocery store and farmers’ market. I recall an Asian woman in California grilling me on cooking okra. A couple of years ago when I was buying a rack of lamb just before Easter, a woman asked me what I was going to do with it. So I told her, and a man chimed in with another question, two other people stepped up and I ended up spending 15 minutes giving an ad hoc tutorial on lamb.

A lot of people are deeply interested in food and cooking but are scared of it. Our current lionizing of celebrity chefs isn’t helping. A chef friend of mine was lamenting the other day that her friends are afraid to ask her husband and her to dinner. I know how she feels, on those occasions when someone gets up the nerve to ask me over for dinner I’m swamped with apologies for the food. I certainly have more tact than to lecture a host on food and cooking and the truth is my tastes run a complete gamut from the occasional Krystal or White Castle slider to Salmon en Papillote at Blackberry Farms. I won’t say I’ve never had a bad meal at a friend’s house, but only a few.

Folks who have an interest in food and cooking are often intimidated by the skills of those populating the Food Network – or they slavishly adhere to the unimaginative panderings of such psuedo-cooks as Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee.

But there’s a wide middle ground between cooking from a box and the complex creations of haute cuisine. If you read what chefs have to say about what they cook at home it’s almost always simple food. Oh sure, they have the knowledge to kick it up a bit. A chef might think to add lavender to a basic butter and lemon juice dipping sauce for artichokes or add a pinch of cayenne pepper to an apple pie, but those are mere details – they’re still only a lemon-butter sauce and apple pie.

Would I be intimidated if I were cooking dinner for Thomas Keller, the renowned chef/owner of The French Laundry? Absolutely. But I’d pick my best dishes and go for it without apology. And he’d enjoy the meal. Good food is good food however fancy or simple it is.

Don’t be afraid to try new foods, if you don’t like it then don’t buy it again and if it’s iffy, look for a different recipe. Don’t be afraid to buy a food you like even if no one else does – if you’re the cook you deserve it. Don’t be afraid to try new cooking techniques and if it doesn’t work out, try again.

And if you see fat guy with a “food face” standing next to you at the grocery, don’t be afraid to ask him for help.

Share  Posted by Kevin Weeks at 8:00 AM | Permalink

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