Recipe for disaster

Showing a dash of deprecation for stupid cookery terms.

I’m not a very good cook, in fact I’m really pretty bad. The kind that makes competent cooks gasp in horror when I regale tales of food ruined beyond comprehension. I can destroy scrambled eggs, make a mess out of curry. And then there’s the bloody baking.

But eating is brilliant and I eat out as much as I can, if only to save myself the shame of ruining yet another dinner. How can I be SO BAD? Obviously it’d be preferable if I could rustle something up that tasted really, really immense.

For hapless cooks – enter the cookbook. Mine are my comfort blanket (what a pussy, I know). But I’m not prepared to eat shit food just because my timing’s bad. Most are good at getting the job done. I’ve been known to end up with presentable – and more to the point – edible, food. But a lot of the books tip the balance so the intimidation-to-accomplishment ratio leans heavily out of my favour. And all I can think is “right, takeaway.”

So when I do hone in on a cookbook and get the pans heating, fridge stocked and fire alarm removed, I get really wound up when I read airy-fairy, namby-pamby instructions that are about as useful as tits on a nun.

I mean, just what the hell is a glug? Which bright marketing executive said it’d be a great idea to stick a load of incomprehensible adjectives in a list of instructions? What if my glug is completely different to yours, and mine just happens to ruin everything and I’m left with an oily mass of swimming chicken? Then there’s “a really good dash”; “until it’s a good consistency” or the excellently helpful “use your instincts”. For a timid cook, this is just a farce.

It’s Jamie’s fault. It started as soon as his books started indexing recipes not by ingredient, but by its ‘adorable’ descriptive title (see ‘Kinda sausage cassoulet’ filed under K). What followed were ways of telling you what to do with splashes and knobs, all without being patronising. Well guess what, it is. It’s rubbish. So I grilled these books so good that now they’re on my bookshelf under “kinda fucking irritating”.

Some of us literally want our hand held in the kitchen, and I don’t care how dangerous that sounds. We want to be armed with a list of do’s and don’t’s and to be talked to like a bitch. Some of us just don’t have intuition, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t need a recipe book to tell me to use it. This definitely wouldn’t happen with furniture. I’m fairly sure we’d all be pissed off to get home and open the box for the new TV unit to find it says “use the nuts and bolts until it looks right”.

So to all you recipe editors, spare a thought for the wayward cook who so dearly hopes you can sort this out until it looks right. Either that, or you can take my ramblings with a bloody good pinch of salt.

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