What I love about cooking is that after a hard day, there is something comforting about the fact that if you melt butter and add flour and then hot stock, IT WILL GET THICK! It’s a sure thing! It’s a sure thing in a world where nothing is sure; it has a mathematical certainty in a world where those of us who long for some kind of certainty are forced to settle for crossword puzzles.—Nora Ephron, Heartburn, 1983
[Excerpt from Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home and the Dog Dies]
It was only a matter of time.
After planning 11,680 dinners over the years, I stood in front of the refrigerator and admitted the ugly truth. “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried. But I just can’t think of a thing to make for dinner tonight.”
My real problem with menu-planning is that my family is made up of two kinds of eaters, those who’ll eat everything (“This is the best Yak aspic I’ve ever tasted!”), and those who’ll eat nothing (“Not fillet mignon AGAIN!”)
The food section in the newspaper isn’t much help. Sure, it keeps Home Economics majors off the streets by letting them write articles like “Brussels Sprouts Bonanza” or “Decorative Okra Carving”. But just once I’d like to see a recipe which calls for ingredients I actually have in my refrigerator—
“Take three geriatric casseroles in which you’ve been culturing potential cures for cancer, add an industrial strength bottle of ketchup and sixteen opened bottles of pediatric antibiotic.”
The newspapers and magazines often feature some version of the Recipe Gestapo, whose mission is the rehabilitation of politically incorrect recipes:
“Dear Cholesterol Cop: My family loves my casserole made with batter-dipped chicken fried in two pounds of butter and baked in Cream of Onion soup topped with a layer of crusted potato chips. Do we need to modify this recipe?”
Dear Reader: This recipe is fine for those with substantial health and/or life insurance policies. Others may wish to substitute beans for the chicken and pureed tofu for the soup. For increased fiber, add a layer of shredded recycled newspaper printed in soy-based ink. Top with large doses of recreational drugs and your family will never know the difference!”
Luckily, the culinary scientists here at BARB’S have made some important breakthroughs. We began with the question, “How important is sanitation in cooking?” Our research was conducted under the most rigorous conditions possible: my son’s preschool classroom, where I agreed to do a cooking project.
I didn’t want to pass on any sexist preconceptions, so I announced that we would be making Persons-of-Ginger. (As in the old story, “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Person-of-Ginger.”) The boys made dough lumps with long rolls coming out of them. These were Power Ranger Persons-of-Ginger. The girls made dough lumps with long rolls coming out of them. These were Fairy Princess Persons-of-Ginger.
In the final step, the kids sprinkled their creations with colored sugar, chocolate chips, sneezes, and whatever they landed in when they dropped them on the floor. Finally, overcome by the riches before her, one little girl stuffed a handful of sugar sprinkles into her mouth and promptly threw up. “EEEEWWWW, gross!” yelled the other chefs. “Can I have the rest of her dough?”
From the fact that the entire class ate their Persons-of-Ginger and lived, we concluded that sanitation in cooking is irrelevant. Further research milestones followed. Who can forget our pathbreaking early discoveries: “It isn’t fattening if you eat it standing up” and “Chocolate chip cookie dough has no calories before it’s baked”.
Now we’ve met our ultimate challenge: the holiday baking. After years of dedicated research, we are proud to announce the biggest culinary discovery since Pop Tarts: “Desserts baked in months with the letter “Y”, “R”, or “J” contain no fat or cholesterol.”