WOSTER: Why men are, or aren’t, the best chefsOne reason so many of the world’s great chefs are men might be that we tend to get a pass on cooking just for actually taking the time to do it.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
One reason so many of the world’s great chefs are men might be that we tend to get a pass on cooking just for actually taking the time to do it.
I could be wrong on several levels with that observation. A couple of things to consider:
Maybe many of the world’s great chefs aren’t men at all. That’s just something I heard or read somewhere. I might have even seen it on the Internet, in which case the odds are better than 50-50 that it’s incorrect. (I learned those odds from an Internet site that measured the chances that information posted on the web is accurate.)
And maybe we, guys, don’t get a pass. My awareness, limited as it is to pretty much my house, is that men (a universe of me in this sample) get a lot more recognition for putting together any part of a meal than women (Nancy) do. I’ve been told my awareness of reality is iffy at best, so I’m not saying my awareness of cooking is on the money.
It’s just what I see around here.
I know that when we have company and we whip up a big meal, with me doing some kind of meat on the grill and Nancy doing everything else that fills the patio table to overflowing, everyone compliments the grill work, which involves: start the fire, plop the steak or burgers onto the grill, close the lid, wait a while and put the charred product onto a platter.
“Wow, this is a great burger,’’ someone will say.
“Yeah, thank the cow that did the real work,’’ I think, but I nod and smile, just as proudly as if I’d slaughtered the critter, butchered the carcass and ground the meat myself.
I’ve been considering my cooking talent and where it places me in the list of all-time great chefs because Thanksgiving is approaching. Nancy and I generally split the cooking duties. The split gives her all the hard work and me the slap-together stuff and maybe the toss-a-turkey-in-a-bag-and-throw-the-bag-in-theoven thing.
I create a make-ahead mashed potato dish that is, well, simply to die for, even if that does dangle a preposition.
Basically, it involves putting a bunch of potatoes in boiling water, reading a book for half an hour or so, dumping the potatoes into a dish, grinding them into mush and tossing on some seasoning and something else I keep forgetting to add.
I sprinkle some cheese on the top, and when that melts and browns, the dish looks good enough to eat, even if it sometimes isn’t.
A few years ago, Nancy suggested we add some sweet potatoes to the Thanksgiving table.
Maybe she suggested yams. I can’t tell the difference. Both are kind of orange and tasteless, which seems to be the standard for a holiday tradition.
Anyway, I picked up some cans of sweet potatoes (or yams) and found a recipe on the label.
If I recall the recipe, it required me to open the can, pour the contents into a dish and sprinkle some brown sugar or, I don’t know, maybe oregano, over the top.
I didn’t analyze the deal too much. You weren’t going to catch me eating any of it.
Some people did take piles of the orange stuff, though. Who’d have figured? When someone asked for the recipe, Nancy said I’d made the dish. I said it was just something I put together on the fly, and I wasn’t sure what was in it except for a dusting of oregano.
I’ve made dressing, too, a time or two, although the recipe Nancy gave me has some stuff I really don’t think I like. When that happens, I tend to substitute something that looks kind of like the ingredient called for in the recipe.
You would be amazed at what a taste surprise you can get that way. I’ve turned bland old dressing into something completely out of the ordinary.
Last evening, when Nancy wondered whether she’d have time to make gravy, I said cheerfully, “Hey, let me do that.”
To myself, I thought, “How hard can that be? We have the oregano.’’
Terry Woster’s columns are published on Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.