Monday

April 24th, 2017

The Village Idiot

How to make a 20-minute meal in just 3 hours

Jim Mullen

By Jim Mullen

Published June 30, 2015

I have a weakness for cooking shows. I love the way TV chefs can whip up a gourmet meal from soup to nuts in half an hour. It takes me longer than that to warm up leftovers.

Of course, the professionals have all kinds of tricks that make things go faster. First, they know how to use a knife. They can dice an onion faster than a food processor. If I tried to do that kind of fancy knife work, it wouldn't be the onions that were making me cry, but the sudden lack of fingertips. Does a trip to the hospital count as prep time?

Chefs all seem to have little tricks for peeling garlic in record time. In seconds, they've chopped them perfectly. What I don't understand is why they don't spend the next 10 minutes washing the garlic smell off their hands, the way I do. I guess they've figured out that nothing works, so why bother.

I've also noticed another time-saving trick that TV chefs use. They never wash anything. They'll use 50 pans, 30 utensils and all kinds of little bowls, plates and gadgets, then they throw them in the sink. Everything magically reappears on tomorrow's show, clean as a new toque.

When I do that, the next day the kitchen is still filthy, and the dishes are that much harder to clean because they're all dry and crusty. Wouldn't you like to see Rachael Ray walk onto her set just once and find the mess she made yesterday still sitting there? Of course she enjoys cooking -- because she's out bowling while someone else cleans up all that salt she threw over her shoulder.

But that's not what really irks me about cooking shows. It doesn't bother me that they put something in the oven and then pull out one that they'd prepared earlier. Something tells me they prepared 20 of them earlier, and we're only seeing the one that turned out the best.

What annoys me is when they say, "Put this in the refrigerator for 20 minutes," and then they put a giant pan of something in the refrigerator without having to move a thing out of the way. Only in TV land are there empty refrigerators.

When I take a jar of mayonnaise out of my fridge, it takes me five minutes of shuffling things around to get it back in. Things have moved around in there while my back was turned and the door was shut. Ours is full of half-empty bottles of mustard, jams, capers, sauces, salad dressings, juices, pickles, yogurt and stuff we used once and have never opened again. There are all kinds of snap-top containers with leftovers from last night and the night before and potato salad and something that could either be chili or spaghetti sauce. They will be there until we move to a new house or the power goes out for a week, whichever comes first.

The chef's fridge has a bottle of white wine, six brown eggs and three empty racks. What did he do with all the food he cooked yesterday? What does he do with his leftovers? Maybe there are none. A lot of times I'll see them cook something and they'll say, "This serves four," and I'm thinking, not at my house it wouldn't. It might serve two -- if we weren't very hungry.

Maybe we should just go out and buy a bigger, better refrigerator and replace our 20-year-old model; it would solve all our problems. Except it turns out, our main problem is that I'm cheap. The least expensive new refrigerator in the big box store was $2,300.

"I thought this was supposed to be the home of low, low prices," I said.

"It is," said Sue, "for people who make money, money, money. Like, say, a TV chef."

Comment by clicking here.

Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo."

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles