This always amuses me. Some people think that their recipes are so special, so sacred, that sharing them outside the immediate family will resort in some kind of culinary chaos.Just imagine what would happen if your friends learned how to prepare your elk chili. Now, we both know that you don’t follow the recipe exactly. You’re going to tweak it at the end. After giving your recipe a try, your friends might say something like, “I followed your recipe and it just doesn’t taste the same.” Of course it doesn’t. You probably left out a few details…accidentally.
As long as I’m in the mood to rant, I really don’t like what has become of TV cooking shows. Rather than an exchange of ideas from people who want to help you make the most of whatever the heck it is you’re cooking, they’ve turned cooking into a competition. Take the “Chopped” show, for instance. Place four chef-types in tight-fitting jackets, crank up the heat and make them cook with obscure ingredients to make things, um, interesting. It’s always best if the contestants have a good backstory that evokes sympathy for the viewer. The snarky panel of judges cast their votes for who deserves to move onto the next round. In the end, the winner gets a wad of cash (taxable) and the losers go back to their regular jobs. With any luck, one of the losers will break down and cry. Tension and drama. And what have we learned? Let’s see…when cooking with cardoon, it’s best to boil them and top with cheese sauce. How about showing me a cool way to cook a freakin’ chicken? I’m out of cardoon.
When TV cooking shows started several decades ago, there were a handful of hosts whose goals were to teach us something about cooking. Few people had heard about chipotle peppers, sous vide or cardoons. Martin Yan taught us how to cut up a chicken in 18 seconds. Julia Child brought French cuisine to the U.S. and Justin Wilson kept us smiling with his down-home sense of culinary humor. Today, Gordon Ramsay curses at inept cooks who can’t seem to make a decent Beef Wellington. “It’s RAW.” I’m waiting for the day when one of the contestants has had enough of Gordon and whacks him in the head with a cast iron skillet before turning him into Wellington. Now that’s some great TV.
It’s becoming more obvious, at least to the people closest to me, that I’m becoming a cranky old man. My wife tells me that I’m turning into the character played by Clint Eastwood on the movie, Gran Torino, and that I’ll eventually be yelling at kids to get off my lawn. OK, so maybe she’s got a point. But when it comes to food and cooking, I’m all about sharing ideas to that help all of us to enjoy what we cook even more. For as long as I’ve been cooking, I still learn new recipes, tips and techniques all the time. Food and cooking should be an enjoyable experience, not an exercise in whose got the biggest zucchini.