More About Vocabulary

I just stumbled upon this article at White Trash Barbecue

So you’ve entered into the world of barbecue. You’re cooking up some good shit. Your food has become the talk of the town. People are lining up to eat your ‘cue. Feels pretty good huh? Sure, you can walk the walk – but can you talk the talk? Can you shoot the shit while working your pit?

Like any profession or hobby, we barbecue gurus – wait that’s probably trade marked – we BBQ pitmasters have our own ways of speaking. Do you know the lingo?

Here’s the full article: Tuesday Tips: Barbecue Lingo I’ll have half a rack, fries and hush puppies. And some slaw.

Read More
Cooking as a Second Language

Cooking as a Second Language

Aside from the usual lack of training, the general inexperience and the tendency to procrastinate, there’s something else that slows me down on my path to become the next Batalli, Emeril or in my case Wolfgang Puck: Language. I constantly get frying and roasting mixed up and really don’t have a name for the act of leaving a casserole dish in the oven for some time. I understand some of the cooking methods need to be defined even for the native speaker, which gives me an easy excuse to be confused about some of them.

Let’s have a look what we have to deal with: Cooking, boiling, broiling, grilling, frying, roasting, baking, sautéing, steaming. Now for the research on the subject:

Cooking is the generic term for it all, which is already the first stumbling block, because in German, it has the same meaning as boiling. Boiling is cooking something in water brought to a boil, which usually happens around 100C or 212F.

Let’s call broiling a technicality and skip to grilling which is done on a grill, which in German is a rost. Rost is called a false friend, something that sounds familiar in the other language but has a different meaning. But let’s go back to grilling, which is applying heat to the subject, usually meat, with the grill keeping the meat from falling into the fire.

Frying is difficult, since a frying pan translated means roasting pan, which makes you want to get your head banged by one. Frying involves cooking in various amounts of oil. Sautéing covers the pan in a thin film, you need a good deal more for frying, and when deep frying, your subject, usually twinkies, is submerged in it.

I think roasting is grilling in a pan or on a baking(!&?%) sheet in the oven. Your subject is often basted in tasty goodness. Casseroles, in the oven, without a lid are baked. Baking in general applies to cakes, pastries and pizzas. In short, a lot of it involves dough, except for baked potatoes.

Steaming involves boiling water. The resulting vapor cooks the food while we try to keep the water away from the food. Back home, steaming involves German engineered pots, which makes it far more complicated than necessary and mostly overcooked.

But I still don’t have a term for cooking something in a casserole dish with the lid on.

Read More

How to Rate a Recipe, Part 2

The battle is over. There’s only the sound of silence in your kitchen. Your brother, who had invited himself for dinner is sitting there, looking for something to complain about. The meal actually doesn’t give him much ammunition and the dirty dishes, pots and pans left in the kitchen aren’t much of his concern. He’ll leave eventually, his need to insult me unsatisfied, but at least he got something to eat. No, I am not going to glorify your cooking here, although it would have made a nice counterpoint.

And you are still facing those dirty dishes. Let’s have a look at the aftermath. Two flat plates, cutlery, a skillet, a pot you used for the rice, lids, the cutting board, cutting and peeling knives, a wooden spoon, a spatula and a spoon for tasting. The stove is semi messy, but still needs some love.

That stack of dishes can be classified in a couple of ways: dishwasher safe, with or without rinsing, hand wash, with or without scrubbing, surfaces for preparation and cooking surfaces. There are more cooking utensils which haven’t been mentioned here, but need some cleaning eventually: baking dishes and casseroles which usually need some soaking before they can be scrubbed. The crock pot is the biggest example here. The oven will need some serious cleaning every now and then. A food processor usually needs special attention as well, due to the knives and cutters involved. Baking sheets are usually just large, but easy to clean. A muffin sheet however can turn nasty if you don’t use cups. Don’t forget garlic presses and graters. Beverage containers open up a new dimension, and serving dishes rarely come self cleaning. The later is of lesser concern, since guys don’t do serving dishes.

I find myself wanting to go to the kitchen and rummage through the cabinets for the one item that would be the nastiest to clean. I am holding myself back, since I made my point already. There are many cooking utensils out there, each with its own cleaning requirements. If you add it all up, the result will be some extra work the lazy cook can’t stand. If you didn’t like cooking to begin with, don’t tell me you like cleaning dishes. And preferring doing the dishes over cooking doesn’t count. It’s time to come up with a rating system that explains how involved cleaning up will be afterwards.

(to be continued)

Read More

Community Supported Agriculture

“YAY RAIN!! Keep it coming!!!!” wrote Courtney Tellefsen, on the Facebook page of our Community Supported Agriculture organization, or CSA. Courtney is the founder of The Produce Box, the CSA in the Raleigh, NC area. She tells us regularly  what’s happening on the farms in North Carolina. Over the course of the growing season she has kept us informed that a rush job was needed to pick cherries, that she was able to get a shipment of fresh garlic and that the farmers need to know how much asparagus we are going to eat next year.

“YAY RAIN!! Keep it coming!!!!” got 39 likes and a couple of comments on Facebook. Facebook connects in a strange way our hyper active, socially networked world back to the farm. Back to a point where we city dwellers will realize how strongly we are still connected to nature and that we occasionally should push the “Like” button for mother nature. That rain will ensure that we’ll get our corn, our peaches and our squash on Wednesday with the next delivery. If it doesn’t rain, we will see how sorry our produce looks in our box. The supermarket will just raise prices and transport more tomatoes from 1500 miles away for this week.

A CSA buys food in your local area and distributes it to its members either by having pickup locations or by delivering it to their doorsteps. The food, and usually it is produce, is always fresh and always in season. You will not find asparagus in August or corn in May. It is yet another way to remind us of nature’s rhythm.

An important aspect of a CSA is the community it creates, even without Facebook. The farmers are always recognized by name in the newsletter. There are various events throughout the season. There’s always a way to meet-your-farmer. More than once a call for volunteers went out to get the harvest in, since things started to get overly ripe, or a big storm front was approaching. Often enough there are events for kids, planned together with a local museum.

For me, the CSA has changed the way I cook. It wasn’t me who picked the produce anymore, but I had to adapt to what was delivered. I was forced to research new dishes, even new vegetables and fruits. It was a helping hand in my battle to become a better cook. How else can you explain that I am now cooking so many dishes using sweet potatoes or the fact that I know how to make a winter squash soup.

“YAY RAIN!! Keep it coming!!!!”. Courtney actually used a lot more exclamation marks in her Facebook post. I know why.

Read More