August 22, 2005

There's too much to know!

One thing that's strange about being a chef is that everyone knows quite a bit about food. Everyone has their favorite foods, their favorite recipes, maybe even a special technique for making something. Besides that, everyone eats, every day!

I went to school for this, so I guess people expect me to know everything about food. Ingredients, techniques, origins, and methods. While I do admit I probably know more about food than most people, I don't know everything. You can be sure that I'll look it up the minute I get back to my cookbooks or get a hold of a computer, but geez, people, can you imagine what life would be like if people quizzed you about your field of expertise all the time? You can't always just give them a straight answer, you've got to research a bit.
     Hey, you're a lawyer, [something] happened to me, will I win if I sue?
     Hey, you're a judge, do I have a chance if I fight this ticket?"
     Hey, you're an architect, will this blueprint get approved by the city?"
   ...or my favorite cliché:
     Hey, doc, why does it hurt when I do "this"?

Of course, the correct (although somewhat snotty) response to any of the above is, "I would love to help you, but I don't know my schedule. Why don't you call my office and make an appointment, and I'll see what I can find out for you. My assistant will go over payment options when you call......" Ideally this is said in one breath, and finished with a huge smile.

The other night I was having dinner with friends, and there was a cheese-shaker jar full of a dark red-brown substance.
My friend asked me what it was. I told her "sumac".
She asked what it tastes like. I told her "it's sour".
She asked what you put it on, I said "anything you'd like to taste a little more sour; it's like adding salt".
She asked where it comes from. and I said "it's common in persian, lebanese, and other middle-east cuisines"
she said. "No, I mean, is it bark, or leaves, or fruit...."
      and I lauged and said, "Gosh, I don't know. Does that mean I get a B- on your little quiz?"

She finally stopped the interrogation....but I think she got the point. Anyway, here comes the science.

Oh, and my other non-favorite thing people ask when I'm eating with them, usually at fine restaurants, is "Can you make this?" The short answer is "yes, of course!" but the long, and more accurate answer, is "Yes, if I had these ingredients, all the accoutrements of a commercial kitchen, an entire day to make it, and a staff of assistants to peel, chop, blanch, puree and mince... of course I can make this!"

Last thing I ate or drank: toasted home-made cinnamon bread and, of course, a latte

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