This might be a short post, because there are few things about cooking I actually hate. But the things that bug me, bug me a lot.
Peeling potatoes. It’s not just because the only vegetable peeler I have right now is made for left-handed people. My left-handed sister gave one to everybody in the family, claiming anyone can use it. But I think it was just revenge on her part. No, I’ve always hating peeling potatoes. They’re slippery, and I always lose the side of at least one fingernail. It’s the main reason I don’t make mashed potatoes, the second one being I’m not that crazy about them and don’t think they’re worth the trouble.
Cleaning lettuce. Despite my undying love for the salad spinner, I hate this job. It’s for a completely bizarre (but no longer embarrassing) reason: I hate to touch lettuce. It makes my face twitch. I make myself do it on occasion, in a “facing your fears” kind of way, but I generally leave it to Logan.
Grating cheese. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Does anyone actually like doing this? If ever there were a reason for me to buy another the food processor, this is it. Alas, sometimes I have to suffer for my principles, because there is no universe, this one or an alternate, in which I would live without cheese.
Cutting up vegetables and fruit. Dicing veggies for a mirepoix is no big deal, even if it’s a huge amount. But cutting veggies for a vegetable plate or fruit for a salad is a big old pain in the ass, and I don’t have the patience. I usually just forego them for parties, or assign them to someone who’s crazy enough to volunteer. I made all the food for my wedding, but don’t think for a second that I spent valuable time putting together a veggie plate. God made grocery store delis for a reason.
Peeling tomatoes. It’s time consuming and messy. However, I do it when I think it’s necessary. The salsa recipe I use calls for fresh, peeled tomatoes, and, while I don’t mind some tomato skins in my red sauce, I don’t want them in my salsa.
Those are it, and considering how many things I will happily do to make a great meal, I don’t think that’s too bad a list. One of my on-line food friends, who is a professional chef and a cooking instructor, says that being a real cook means being willing and able to do anything and everything required. But I think we all have our limits, don’t we? We can’t do everything all the time, but that doesn’t negate our credibility as home cooks. Even having all the time in the world doesn’t mean I’m going to spend it peeling tomatoes if I don’t have to.
I’m riveted by the idea of what makes a real cook. My chef friend says that, in addition to being willing and able to anything and everything, being a real cook means doing it even when you don’t want to; that you’ll gladly stand on your feet for hours at a time, and put up with the heat and the aggravation and the mistakes. If you can’t or won’t do that, then you need a qualifier before the word “cook”. I was really put off by the suggestion at first, but I thought about it for a while and I can’t say I disagree with him or that I’m insulted by the suggestion. I think I do need a qualifier, and that would be “home”. I’m not a professional, and I have neither the skills nor the desire to be one. It would run all the fun for me. If being unwilling to peel potatoes means I have to call myself a home cook, I can live with that. It’s not a putdown, it’s just reality.