Every village has its idiot. So does every Junta.
The great Junta has invited me to guest post from the perspective of the novice chef. As way of background, I recently moved to Santiago de Chile and for the first time in my life am confronted with the need to cook for myself. 18 years with my dearest mother Abby, 4 years with my dearest mother Yale, and 2 years with Mother-effin NYC had thus far precluded me from that activity. Life was pretty swell and simple for those first 24 years, but those days have come to an end. I’ve reached cooking puberty, and the Junta is showing me all the fun, new things I can do with my chicken loins.
Why is it so hard to start?
1) You don’t have the equipment: There is nothing in your pantry. No salt. No seasonings. You don’t have pots, pans, strainers, big wooden spoons (!), or even forks. Cooking has more start-up costs than you might realize.
2) You don’t have the vocabulary: Beginner cookbooks are not beginner enough. They need to explain what sauté means, the difference between dicing and chopping and how one goes about “broiling” something. Even what low-to-medium heat means on an unmarked stove.
3) You have zero cooking IQ: What stove temperature do you cook spaghetti in? How the hell should I know? How much oil? Seasoning something “to taste” – come again?
4) It is very time consuming at first: Shopping, set-up, clean-up. Every step takes forever. Newbies are very slow.
That being said, once you get over the hump it can be very enjoyable. The best part is the freedom. I can do things in the privacy of my own apartment that any self-respecting restaurant would never do for me (and do it pants-less!). For example, horseradish. I love horseradish. I would bathe in horseradish. Thanks to cooking, I can now put horseradish in EVERYTHING. Sautéed vegetables, spaghetti, cereal. My sinuses have never been so happy.
Question for the group: Has anyone ever actually consumed an entire jar of horseradish? I suspect most jars either end their underappreciated, miserable lives broken on the kitchen floor or thrown away when the fridge loses power. My goal is to be the first person to ever consume an entire jar of horseradish. Will send in pictures periodically so readers can track my progress.
My first creation: Bloody, tear-soaked tomato/onion salad with generic seasoning
Buy tomato. Buy onion. Cut tomato into irregular oblong shapes. Cut onion unevenly. Cry like baby. Cut finger by mistake. Cry again like baby. Powder on some generic “Condimento para Ensalada.” Toss on a little olive oil. Eat messily with hands. Deeeelicious.