Monday, 26 November 2012

Learn To Cook

I'm not talking about chef-cooking. You can do that if you want. I'm talking about the ability to grill fish, fry a steak, cook kidneys, slice vegetables and fruit, and generally put together something that might be simple but tastes good. 

Real cooking is done with gas. And sharp knives. It involves dead animals, hot surfaces, boiling water and neat tricks with heavy implements like throwing somersaults with an omlette in a frying pan. It has a technical vocabulary all its own, and you can't hide when it is done badly, well or just plain ordinarily. That's why cooking attracts Real Men. Real men can cook. Real women can cook as well. Do not even think of having a long-term relationship (or even staying for breakfast) if all she has is a toaster and a microwave. The chances are she won't have good coffee, either.

Most men of my generation were turned on to cooking by the late great Keith Floyd's first series Floyd on Fish. Keith Floyd was a very talented brasserie chef, not so much of a talented businessman, a not-so-closet drinker and an all-round lad. Here was a man who cooked things, and prepped the bits, in real time, while getting thorough a hefty glass of wine. He made it look as though a bloke paying a bit of attention could do it as well, which is why we blokes piled into the kitchen. He made preparing, cooking and presenting food look like something a man could do. Previously, the men had been a little precious, or just plain whipped, like Johnny Craddock. (You'll need to look that up.) Floyd make cooking a Real Man's occupation.

Don't expect to cook like they do on the TV cooking porn shows. Those guys are actual chefs, professionals, and it's what they do, all day. And get paid for. You and I are not going to be able to cook like that because, oh, right, we're not actual chefs. I don't know about you, but I don't have the time to prep and cook like that. I cook plain and simple these days. (I can bake, but I'm not supposed to be eating cakes.)  Also, the food you and I cook will not taste like it does in the better restaurants. Chefs get better ingredients than we can: they know where to buy carrots that taste like carrots and meat that tastes like it might once have been on an live animal. The ingredients most of us can buy are pretty average, and in England, pretty tasteless.

Plus, what no-one tells you is that a lot of the recipes in the books don't actually work. Seriously. It's why people used to worship Delia Smith: her instructions actually work. Nevertheless, you are a Real Man, or a Real Woman, and so you will learn to cook. 

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