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February 20th, 2005

The Basics

Last night the topic of cooking and baking came up in conversation. My wife had just started reading the first chapter of Nigella Lawson’s book, How to Eat. In it Nigella discusses how people have generally lost the ability to do “the basics” when it comes to cooking. That is, how to make stock, how to make a pastry crust, how to make a roast (or, presumably, Tofurkey), etc.

That got me to thinking, of course, about my own abilities in the kitchen. I have a very small number of recipes I am good at, and one I’m really good at, but indeed I’m not that good with the basics. Pastry crust? Comes in a box. Stock? Comes in a box. A roast? Uh, I haven’t had one in years, but I’m pretty sure I put it in the oven. That’s about it.

How about you? Are you good with the basics, or are you not so good, too? The idea of making all of this stuff instead of buying it is a really appealing concept, versus depending on canned and processed food to take care of things. I mean, as Ryan knows, 35 years ago a whole lot of tuna was recalled because of mercury contamination… and I don’t see mercury on my spice rack.

Posted in Food and Beverage

FROM: jk
DATE: Sunday February 20, 2005 -- 11:16:33 am
I know how to make really great gravy, but I haven't made it in over a decade. When you think about all the time and extra ingredients you have to invest in, it's much easier to let someone else (where they know your name?) do all the work.

I can't imagine ever making my own pasta from scratch, can you?

My friends Daisy and Walt are very organically-inclined and don't even own a microwave oven. When I visited them last year, they made everything from scratch. I think I have a small scar from peeling potatoes! Everything tasted great though.



FROM: Chris [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday February 20, 2005 -- 4:28:52 pm
We used to make our own pasta, make fresh bread several times a week, and whip up waffles from scratch on Sunday morning.

Then we had kids.

Good Eats is great for the basics. Alton Brown is all about the basics.



FROM: Joseph
DATE: Tuesday February 22, 2005 -- 10:04:11 am
I'm good at the basics and I've made my own pasta--which, once you've had it, boxed pasta seems like dog food--until you lose the crank handle to your pasta machine (arrrrggghhhhhh!!!) and you go back to it and get used to it all over again.

If you plan ahead, cooking from scratch is pretty easy and sensible. You just need a BIG freezer. You set aside a day to cook, you cook about six things and the rest goes in the freezer to be reheated.

Once in a while, when there's a really great sale, you take a break. For instance, this week at the local grocer, all Progresso soups were $1 a can. They're usually $3 to $4 a can. I bought over 40 cans and will not be visiting the kitchen this week.



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