Too many cooks…..

kitchen_4623If there is one thing that I cannot abide. If only there was but one thing, rather than the extensive and ever growing catalogue of things that I cannot abide: but that is not the case. The furnace of my intolerance was stoked and inflamed, yesterday, by  being “helped” in the kitchen by an incompetent. Such a person acting as your right hand, in an environment of fire and knives, makes the dreadful behaviour of chefs towards their underlings seem totally reasonable. Focus and concentration are primary requisites, if there is to be any hope of success, when one undertakes the creation of several recipes simultaneously.

If those ingredients are missing or worse still, present in a lesser quantity than is required, then there is little chance of success. Much as I cajoled, encouraged and chivvied my “helper” it seemed apparent, from an early stage, that he was an admirer of the King Alfred school of cookery in which dreaming transcends creaming. I’m not sure how acute were Alfred’s kingly attributes, but history would have us believe that his baking ability was more incendiary that intoxicating. He believed in brulée and I found myself entering into his world early on in the day. Sliced apples, sugar and a tablespoon of water cantered past the sweet purée stage, accelerated away from the chance of being accepted as a caramelised apple confection and rushed headlong into a blackened, carbonised crust that threatened the very future of the saucepan. My Alfredian assistant assiduously applied himself to the refurbishment of the encrusted pan whilst the water rapidly evaporated in another pan that sat on the blazing hob, containing some finely sliced carrots, butter, sugar and less and less water per nanosecond. He was unwittingly creating a continuum in which as one pan was rigorously renovated another was, simultaneously, being reduced to a smouldering ruin.

The screaming, smoke, fire and heat was now reminiscent of a normal day in a  mediaeval torture chamber. As the world around us burned and steamed, busy hands were creating more mayhem. Blades whirred in the food processor combining sugar, egg, butter and flour in a proportion that normally creates the basis for a thin, sweet and crisp pastry case. But yesterday’s alchemy produced a thick, sweet, sticky blanket that would have been useful for mending a leaking roof but less attractive in its intended use as the base of a tarte au citron. The ever helpful assistant, having whisked together the lemony tart filling, then put the disaster in the oven. It was around that moment that I pointed out to him the pot of cream, that was so essential to the lemony filling, that remained unopened on the work top. We have established that Tolerance is not my middle name. If my name was so long that it would need a line stretching from here to eternity on which to write it, the word Tolerance would not be in the middle, at the beginning nor at the end. It would be absent. I had had enough and I left the kitchen in that loftiest of vehicles, high dudgeon. That act left the kitchen empty.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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34 Responses to Too many cooks…..

  1. John harvey says:

    The views from High Dudgeon are spectacular. But only in retrospect. Your poor (both on skill and, I suspect, subsequent emotional state) helper. Great prose though. Now to cook lunch … Courgette and lemon spaghetti. Hopefully no pans will be harmed in the making of this meal.

  2. Poor you. Some days it’s best to stay out of the kitchen.

  3. Mad Dog says:

    It’s quite hard to find good people to cook with at home, but it’s even worse in a professional kitchen. Generally chefs adapt or they don’t last long. Personally I’d rather have no help than bad help 😉

  4. Did you argue with yourself as it was happening?! From what I see, you were alone,which makes this even funnier…brilliant writing and am intrigued by the shot which looks like a drawing. Very clever!

    • You’re right – I was alone and making every possible mistake that can be made. The shot was a very boring one of the kitchen surface, which I fiddled with in Photoshop. I didn’t have a picture of anything delicious from that day, that’s for sure:)

  5. Sounds like a normal day in my kitchen. 🙂

  6. spree says:

    { sigh } so few things make one feel worse than an entirely wasted day in the kitchen, than perhaps that with only 2 burned pots to show for it. {i’d have been very happy to share my tarts au citron with you roger and saved you the torture.}

  7. You sound like me in the kitchen, Roger. Only I would never even attempt this one. 🙂

  8. You made me laugh, Roger….I know scenes like this only too well…

  9. ChgoJohn says:

    I can so identify, Roger. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy in the kitchen. Luckily, very few are witness to the mayhem and only my trash collectors are in a position to see the evidence.

  10. Michelle says:

    Oh, Roger, you’ve outdone yourself. Even if the cooking was bad, your post makes up for it!

  11. Eha says:

    Do hope you have stepped down from your vehicle, had an interim meal in a favourite bistro, sipped a few glasses and will by now not be in a high dudgeon with all your eager visitors 🙂 !

  12. Tandy says:

    Some days are better suited to drinking wine and eating a good brie from Brittany 🙂

  13. Even your failures sound better than many meals most people serve. It’s funny, how something that looks positively terrible still tastes good; after all the fine ingredients are still there, just slightly confused…

  14. Oh, my. Um, maybe this “assistant” is better left to the taste-testing part of the meal.

  15. Karen says:

    We all have those days…I should tell you about my vichyssoise some day. On second thought…it is best not to mention it. Love how you can take one of your wonderful photos and turn it into what looks like an illustration.

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