I am at that point in my life where I have had enough well cooked meals to know the difference between good cooking and bad cooking. And I suspect that I am no different than most folks: I prefer good cooking.
But it seems that in our politically correct culture these days, it is completely and totally taboo to point out bad cooking. To do so would be to create conflict and confrontation. You know, squabbles between the cook, the cook's supporters and the recipient of the cook's shitty fare.
Of course, we can't have that. So here goes: I hate bad cooking, but I am forbidden from griping about it. When I am hungry, I will eat bad cooking. Which in my extended family is most all the time. In my household, I will not eat bad cooking and remain silent. I will speak up. To speak well of a poorly crafted meal will only serve to perpetuate the badness of the meal: if I say that I enjoyed something crappy, then I will see it show up on my plate again. Why encourage bad cooking? I don't, at least not in my own home. And my wife has come to expect a truly honest opinion of everything she cooks, and no phony baloney praise. She is a good cook, and bats around .925 or so. But every now and then, something turns out bad, and I let her know. And of course, I let her know that the good stuff came out nice, too. Which is most of the time.
But when I am on the road eating meals cooked by others, I am prohibited by this unspoken pressure to never criticize Aunt Sally's spaghetti sauce. In fact, I am under pressure to actually praise it, even though I would prefer to flush the stuff down the toilet, given half the chance. But I won't say boo, and I will eat the stuff, smile and when prompted indicate it was very good.
What makes bad cooking? Plenty of errors are made by the average bad cook. Here are but a few:
1. Trying recipes out for the first time on guests. Many bad cooks feel that they must impress their guests with fancy, schmancy food that looks great in the magazine, but they have never in fact ever tried to produce it in person. And when the guinea pigs formerly known as guests try this never before prepared fare, it is usually more of the same: 'ummm, Aunt Sally, this is the BEST.' And it's not.
2. Poor guest management. Well prepared food is best when served at the proper temperature. Hotcakes, for example, should be hot when served (flapjacks, pancakes, all the same thing). And steak. Steak should be sizzling hot. But not at Aunt Sally's, not by a long shot. Aunt Sally will cook the steaks, and then let them cool down to room temperature because she doesn't want to serve them until everyone sits down, and that means waiting for Uncle Bert to wake up from his nap. Bad cooking can come in the form of poor guest management. If Fredd were the cook, Uncle Bert would have been sitting at the table well before the steaks were done. Even if Uncle Bert had to be woken up by a bucket of ice water in his fat face. There is nothing worse than cold food that is supposed to be hot.
3. Improperly timed dishes. A good meal is served with all the fare ready to eat and on the plate or in the bowl at the moment the guest sits down. The steak will be hot, the French bread will be hot and crispy, the milk will be cold, you know, whatever is supposed to be served hot is hot, and whatever is supposed to be served cold is cold. But not at Aunt Sally's, not a chance. Aunt Sally will cook one dish at a time, then pull it off the stove and cover it with tin foil. Like that is supposed to keep food hot. It doesn't. And so it goes for the rest of the meal: next the green beans, pull them off, then make the mashed potatoes. Then pull them off the stove, cover the pot with tin foil, and on and on and on it goes. Then the lovely and gracious Aunt Sally will serve her guests (assuming they are awake from their naps and ready to eat, if not, the food can properly attain room temperature, just the way everybody likes it). And when the everyone sits down, everything on the table is room temperature.
In other words, bad cooking. Of course, because everybody is hungry, the only words coming out of every mouth (even mine) is: 'great stuff, Aunt Sally, you really know how to strap on the feed bag.'
And now I am guilty as the rest of the gang, praising Aunt Sally's inedible garbage as great cooking. Which ultimately leads to more bad meals in the future.
And I hate bad cooking, you think I would muster up the gumption and say something. But I am cowed by political correctness, and will put up with Aunt Sally's bad cooking until I die.
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