Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Are you a lover or a hater?

Everybody who knows me knows I am a lover of food and cooking. If I wouldn’t be closer to the end of my professional life but rather at the beginning I would definitely chose a career in food. I still managed to start a food business and I am loving it.
Like many people who enjoy doing something,we struggle to understand why others can’t love it as much as we do. Or at least a little. I find it hard to understand and even accept when people say “I don’t cook”. To me that’s like saying “I don’t breathe”.
Most of the people I know would be capable to follow basic instructions. If I’d say to you “Fill that bucket with water and carry it over there and empty it into this hole” I am sure most people could do this. So why can’t people follow an instruction saying “Fill a pot with water, add a teaspoon of salt, put it onto the stove, switch it on and bring to the boil. Once it is boiling add 250 grams of spaghetti”. What could possibly go wrong? Well you could forget to add the water? Or you night not recognize boiling water? You confuse rice with spaghetti?
I think a lot of people don’t like to cook because they don’t do it right. Let me describe two approaches using yesterday’s dinner, Chickpea tagine with figs. A quite simple but very delicious and somewhat exotic recipe.

The hater

I put the pot on the stove and started chopping the onions. Then I got two gloves of garlic and peeled them. I switch on the pot and add some olive oil. I chopped the garlic and added the onions and garlic to the pot. Going back to the recipe I found I need to add spices. After rummaging around in the pantry until I found the spice mix on the back shelf I discovered that my onions and especially the garlic were quite dark. Ahh well. I added the spices and because everything was on the brink of getting burned. I added the vegetable stock. Reading through the recipe again I see I need to drain and rinse the chickpeas and add the tomatoes. The stock started boiling while I open the can of tomatoes. Where is that dreaded can opener. That drawer is far too full. Oh I found the nutmeg grater I looked for last time. Anyways, lets open the chickpea cans because they have a pull open lid. That stock is really boiling, I better turn that down. Ok drained the chickpeas and put them into the stock. Found the can opener and the tomatoes go in as well. Back to the recipe, oops forgot to rinse the chickpeas. Ahh well, doesn’t matter.
Ok, what’s next? Ahh yes, beans need to be cleaned and halved, zucchini chopped and figs chopped. Ok, get the beans out of the fridge and cut the ends off. Gosh that’s taken forever. That pot is cooking already quite some time now. Oh recipe says only 10 minutes. I get it off the stove. Ok back to the beans. They are finished now. Get the zucchini out and chop them. Same with the figs. No idea how big or small so I just chop. Added the beans already into the pot, followed by the zucchini. The figs go in and the pot back on the heat.
Back to the recipe. Ok two cups of couscous soaked in two cups of boiling water. That’s easy. Let’s get this out of the way. Done.
Why is that veggie stuff not boiling. That takes ages.
“Boil until vegetables are soft” – ok lets try a piece of zucchini. Nah still a bit tough. Keep boiling.
Ok zucchini are soft now. Gosh that took 10 minutes until it came up to the boil and another 10 minutes to soften the zucchini. What’s the couscous doing? Recipe says to fluff it with a fork after 5 minutes. Ahh well it was now 20 minutes. Man that stuff is tough now.And a bit cold. Break it up a bit, not really fluffy more like clumps.
Ok, put couscous on a plate, top with the vegetables and serve. Couscous is really cold, beans are half boiled. I don’t like the bitter taste of the burnt onions and garlic. Why can’t those recipes never work? How can anyone on this planet love doing this. I hate cooking.

The lover

Ok let’s read through this recipe. Cool, not that difficult. I have enough time to do the vegetables and need to time the couscous so that it is ready as soon as the vegetables are cooked.
01 - CookingGo through the list of ingredients and get everything onto the bench. Where is that spice mix? Ah here on the back shelf. Ok check I have everything. Yes all there.

Now again let’s look at the ingredients. Ok chop the onions and put in a bowl. Same with 02 - Cookingthe garlic. Prepare two cups of vegetable stock. The instant vegie stock can go back into the pantry. Open all the cans, rinse and drain the chickpeas. Chop zucchini,and figs, clean the beans and break in half. Back to the recipe. Ok the beans, zucchini and figs go into the pot at the same time so they can be put on a plate together.  Put two teaspoons of spices into a small bowl. Put a measuring cup for the two cups of boiling water onto the bench and pre-boil the water already. This will just be reheated when it is needed. Put the oil bottle, salt pot and peppermill onto the bench. Ok what all ingredients there and prepared.
Reading the instructions again. Get a pot on the stove and put in some oil. Once hot add onions and garlic,add the spices. Stir until they are soft. Done. Add in the chickpeas, tomatoes. Hmmm not quite sure if it might be a bit too much liquid. I better only add 2/3 of the stock.  Ok that needs to come up to the boil now. I better remove what I don’t need anymore. 04 - Cooking

Ok it needs a while to get to the boil. I’ll have a beer an see what I’ll cook tomorrow.
Now add the rest of the ingredients and boil until soft. After a couple of minutes try the beans. They might need another 3 or so minutes. Boil some water for the couscous, pour it over it and let soak. Check the beans after 4 minutes – perfect. Switch off the heat. Couscous needs another minute, fluff it up nicely, plate it and – bon appetite. Cooked to perfection, really delicious. I love cooking.

At least try it

While this approach might not work for everyone it is an organised way to take away most of the stressful situations. This is how the professionals cook. You will not see a professional cook rummaging around in the middle of cooking, trying to find the tarragon. Or chopping carrots while the onions are in the pan. It is sometimes a good approach looking at the professionals and what they do and try to apply this to our life. I am not saying you should wear chef’s whites at home. Give it a go, try a more organized approach. prepare as much as possible and who knows – you might enjoy cooking.
Share your experiences with us. I’d love to hear if it helped – or didn’t help.