Male culinary bluster: a dish best served cold?

“Chili growing is to gardening as grilling is to cooking, allowing men to enter, and dominate, a domestic sphere without sacrificing their bluster.” Lauren Collins said that in “Fire Eaters”, an excellent article in the latest food issue of the New Yorker (11/4/13). The article had a couple of other zingers on men and food and I was going to write a tribute piece till I noticed some of the comments on my own blog. Male culinary bluster indeed.

When I wrote about how to rate Texas barbecue and mentioned that I liked a good smoke ring, a commenter said, “Wrong on the smoke ring. KCBS competition judges are told to ignore the smoke ring as they can be artificially created and are not always indicative of slow smoking as you state.” (A little googling reveals that while KCBS is the network affiliate in Los Angeles, in context it more likely refers to the Kansas City Barbecue Society.)

Then, responding to my explanation on why I am not buying a Sansaire sous vide device, a commenter thought my piece “shows that he really hasn’t done his research on sous vide and I would personally be concerned being served food at his place.” (Italics mine, because I love that part.)

What these comments, and a couple others, have in common is that they are citing some external food authority and suggesting that I haven’t done my homework. Mea culpa! [Raises hands with palms exposed in attempt to appear harmless.] Although I sometimes get down in the weeds as with the exploration on Guss’s pickles, those studies are for my own amusement and I do not claim to know anything about food other than what I have learned from my own experience and from watching others whom I respect.

I like food, I like to explore and prepare food, I like to eat it and enjoy others’ reactions when it is served. I draw on my history growing up and eating good food in Texas, a tiny bit of professional experience, hobbyist explorations into other food ways (often international), and devising shortcuts to eat the same food at home without spending all day in the kitchen.

I hate long lists of ingredients and elaborate techniques. I want an end result which tastes really good with a minimum of effort, and ideally is cheap to boot. This is not to say research is bad, just that it’s too much work and often gets in the way of instinctive decisions about food.

Case in point: Thanksgiving. With turkey day coming up, the web is clogged with articles for the novice cook on “How Not To Fuck Up Thanksgiving” in which it is assumed you will be serving a groaning board of cleverly staged entrees and sides to a set of picky relatives and foodie friends. That’s paralysis by analysis. How could you not fail with so much to learn and then execute on such a high-stakes timetable? The fact is that turkey is one of the easiest things in the world to cook and Thanksgiving is simply an opportunity to buy one of these birds at a great price and indulge in a little gluttony. What’s not to like? If you’re kitchen challenged, buy sides by the quart at Boston Market, pick up some canned cranberry sauce, and make bread stuffing following the recipe on the Pepperidge Farm package. That’s all the research you need.

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