04 May Reality Check for Food Writers
Spend enough time doing something and it will change the way you think, mess with your assumptions, and skew your expectations. When I studied fiction writing everyone who walked into the cafe was a potential character. Their clothes, their order, their gait held clues to their inner thoughts and beliefs. Woah! Everyone noticed the dude in the just-out-of-the-box, neon green shoelaces and dirty, frayed red high tops. Right?
Okay, you were busy reading the menu. But the guy who ordered the double chai latte? Come on. Was he doing a bad Brando impersonation or did he just come from the dentist. Didn’t notice him either? Hmmm. Seems it’s just me.
Being immersed in the world of food, I thought I was safe from outing myself yet again as an oddball. After all, everybody eats and I’m savvy enough to know if you toss about chi-chi French terms like chiffonade or en chemise, you’ll end up with the culinary equivalent of a wedgie. Yet, food writers are so busy bolting from terms like “simmer”, “saute” and “braise”, we’ve slammed head first into obscure ingredients and stray gadgets without pausing to say so much as “I’m sorry. I should have been watching where I was going.”
For instance, in a cookbook aimed at “easy” recipes, one celebrity chef blithely recommends every kitchen have two dishwashers. That’s not a typo. Two. I barely have space for the apartment-sized version I crowbarred into the kitchen. And that near-miraculous feat required sacrificing a much needed stack of drawers. Had someone said, “Nice work. Now do it again,” they’d be too busy removing the crowbar from an uncomfortable place to offer more sage advice.
While I didn’t buy the double dishwasher suggestion for a second, its casual, off-hand delivery made me question my assumptions. I’m not a complete idiot. I realize most people can barely accommodate party groceries let alone spare appliances, and that Himalayan pink salt is a bit of a foodie thing. But what about stand mixers and fleur de sel? Does everyone have these on hand or does an entire industry exist so food writers can impress each other?
And microplanes? Surely you have a microplane — or two — in your utensil drawer. And you do have a utensil drawer, don’t you? As you can see. I’m not sure what to think anymore.
What items do we wrongfully assume everyone stocks — and I don’t mean high-end items like caviar and foie gras. Do you keep balsamic vinegar in your cupboard? Where do you stand on shallots?(Figuratively, not literally.) Do you know what a ricer is? More importantly, do you care? On the flip side, are we insulting your intelligence by shielding you from scary words like “mince”, “dice”, and “braise”? Set me straight. And quickly. I have a super cool mini-bundt pan at hand and I’m feel the urge to write a recipe for it.