Shamed by Anthony Bourdain
Oh, dear. I have fallen down on the job.
I am reading Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw right now and last night I got to the chapter titled “Virtue.” It is, essentially, a list of everything he believes the average person should be able to cook for themselves. I pass every test (almost, see “soup” below), but I think about what I’ve taught Noah thus far. Could he survive in a world without the 24-hour IHOP and the offerings at his local Shell station in Knoxville?
Noah does cook. Here’s proof positive. Here he is making quesadillas. Yes, there was a little too much oil involved and the quesadillas relied heavily on red peppers. But nothing came out of a box and they tasted reasonably good. Unfortunately, his “clean as you go” skills are not at the optimum performance level. We’ll be working on that.
So here’s the list of what Anthony Bourdain thinks Noah should be able to cook for himself.
Cooking vegetables to a desired doneness: As noted, Noah has perfected red peppers and he has an understanding of how to make my world famous Brussels sprouts. So, by a slim margin, I will give Noah the nod on vegetables.
A standard vinaigrette: While Noah has watched me make a vinaigrette many times, I don’t think he would even be able to define the term if you asked him. Fail.
The ability to shop for fresh produce and know what’s in season: Yes and no. Noah can shop for produce. He does not know what’s in season. That’s the shame of growing up in an era when you can buy strawberries in August and tomatoes in February.
How to recognize a fish that’s fresh and how to clean and filet it: Definitely no. Noah is not much of a fish eater, unless it’s raw in sushi. The fish in our house comes cleaned, filleted and on a Styrofoam tray. My bad. Noah fails.
Steaming a lobster or crab: No, but this is my fault. When we do crab, it’s crab legs. They’re already cooked and I just warm them up in the oven before dousing them with melted butter. Noah knows how to do this. We have not done lobster in any form. I am too cheap. However, in the cold hard world of Anthony Bourdain, Noah fails.
Roasting meat without a thermometer: No. Truth be told, we don’t roast a lot of meat. The occasional chicken is about as complicated as it gets. And I will say this about thermometers. Although I don’t need one when I grill a steak or pork tenderloin, I cannot live without my digital thermometer for gauging the doneness of chicken. Twenty-five dollars extremely well spent. So take a smack to the head on that one, Anthony.
Roasting and mashing potatoes: Yes! Here’s one he knows. I am happy to say that despite the occasional box of Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes that I will admit has found its way into the pantry, the vast majority of the time we are homemade roasted and mashed potato people. And Noah has done both himself.
Braising: Unequivocally, no. I am now regretting all those times I braised a chuck roast or short ribs and didn’t clue Noah in on the process. It’s so easy. However, Noah fails again.
Making stock with bones and making soup: No and no. This, again, is my bad. I’ve made plenty of stock in my day but I never taught Noah. And soup? Here’s a little secret for you. I hate soup. I will eat it once in a blue moon in a restaurant if the soup involves lots of cream. But to me, eating soup is like taking nourishment intravenously. Through no fault of his own, Noah fails.
So, as you can see, by Anthony Bourdain’s standards, Noah is woefully ill prepared to feed himself. However, here’s what Noah can do. He can make scrambled eggs. He can make pasta with pesto. He is extremely good at making sandwiches and not just your garden variety ham and cheese. Quesadillas? He can make them all day long. Salad. He may not have the vinaigrette down, but he can make a salad. He knows how to fry things and that, in a Southern world, is a valuable skill.
But I can see I have some remedial training to do when he’s home for summer break. Except for the soup. We won’t be doing soup.