This section is entirely dedicated to the understanding of food and its preparation. The only thing worse than an article trumpeting “10 Quick and Easy Dinners for Nights When You Just Can’t,” is the article “You’re not A Fancy Chef Until You Put The Fancy Ingredient Into the Fancy Pot.” This page will focus on becoming an excellent chef utilizing excellent ingredients in a well equipped kitchen. As luck would have it, this experience has been achieved best by the poorest and hungriest people to ever walk the Earth. Consequentially, those readers who enlist money as their excuse not to be an excellent chef will be sorely disappointed by how little of it is needed. Indeed, rich people with divine kitchens and imported beef are, most frequently, terrible chefs and will find little use or relevance for this collection of articles as we will cover neither Wagyu nor Swordfish.
The Salt Republic Cooking School
I’ve always wanted to host a cooking consultation service that is completely done over the phone, or text. It would go like this: You call, I answer politely, then before you ask a question I say “turn down the heat” and hang up. I am thoroughly convinced that the source of 99% of “bad cooking” or “bad cooks” is a pan that is too hot. For any weekday cook, anyone looking to cook solid, delicious, impressive food day in and day out, or anyone attempting to cook an egg for any reason, the answer is less heat.
We don’t need to talk about chemistry or biology here. Most food websites will regale you with narratives of collagen, free radicals and fatty acids that will make cooking about as soulful as changing light bulbs. (As an aside, I am also wholly convinced that the people who spend the time talking the chemical talk have no idea what they are doing. In the words of Taleb, they are lecturing birds how to fly. The ingredients will act as the ingredients will act, regardless of the complex titles we offer the processes and compounds: the analytical quest for biology and chemistry in cooking only leads to malaise and dissatisfaction where once, there was art.) Early humans began applying heat to meats and fishes so they tasted better. Today, we venture the same: applying heat to food at low levels, we offer ingredients the opportunity to become soft, tender, et cetera.
The Dutch Oven
The dutch oven is the single most important piece of cooking equipment in the kitchen. Period. If one only had only a dutch oven, a flame and his hands, he could create millions of incredible dishes from dozens of fantastic cultures in the single pot; albeit with very blistered hands. This humble contraption teaches the cook to understand and respect ingredients, heat and time. Nothing else in the entire kitchen matters if the cook does not firmly grasp these basic elements. Knife skills? These are for the flashy and the artful. A saute pan? Only useful because we are too lazy and weak to use the dutch for the same task. Roasting pan? Because I wish I had a larger dutch oven.
The dutch oven is the first item any cook should purchase. Every item acquired in the kitchen after the dutch is a reflection, exaggeration or perversion of her qualities useful to make cooking less labor intensive or to allow for more refined technique. The experienced chef will balk at the article because he has forgotten the basic creativity at the heart of cooking. The cook who “needs” anything besides the dutch is the cook who takes his tools for granted. He has lost or is losing respect for the soul of cooking. When I find myself bitching because someone scratched my Teflon skillet or a friend puts a knife through the dishwasher or I can’t find my favorite whisk or, God forbid, the immersion blender’s cord isn’t long enough… I remind myself to drop everything. I crush an onion with my hands and bite the bad ends off a few carrots. I snap them into pieces and pile it all into the dutch with a raw chicken on top. I salt the whole mess and put it into a very hot oven, uncovered. I say a prayer of thanks, wink at my rice cooker and remember that when Hoover promised a chicken in every pot, his audience was America, but his subject matter was Dutch. Suddenly, small sins in the kitchen can be forgiven. I’m just happy to have what I have, and know if I didn’t, my dutch would still be there for me.