disapproving kitty

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Only As Good as My Ingredients

I have all these cookbooks.  They're in a bookcase, and sort of just crammed in there because at some point one of my kids removed all of them from the shelf and scattered them about the floor for reasons beyond comprehension.  Well, my comprehension, anyway.  I'm sure there was a good reason at the time.  But now all of them are crammed back up there in such a way that if I even try to remove one, the rest cascade out, spewing bits of other papers all over the clean sticky floor.   Seriously.  My floors get sticky within seconds of being cleaned.  You could trap small mammals in the gunk on my floor.  But this is not the point.

The point is, I have all these cookbooks.  And I rarely use them.  When I do want to use one, like the really cool little bread one I got from mom that automatically falls open to the pizza crust recipe, I usually can't find it because it's hidden by all the little scraps of paper.  Recipes are written on those scraps, which I mean to organize into a binder or something, but I don't.  I just shove them onto the cookbook shelf.  And then I never find them again, or even remember that I have them.   Occasionally one will fall off and I'll read it as I pick it up (this does happen sometimes) and go "Oh!  Yeah, I liked that recipe.  I think."  But I won't be able to duplicate it because when I made it the last time, I used onions instead of scallions (which I never have) and tomato sauce instead of paste because I was out, white wine instead of red and omitted the capers altogether because who the hell stocks capers in their fridge?  Besides, I never remember that I like capers until I have them accidentally at a restaurant and ask my mom what they are.

So even with all these recipes readily available, some of them even in neatly indexed books, I'm always going to the internet to find ones specifically suited to what I want to eat.  Or, more precisely, suited to what I have on hand, or can reasonably substitute for.  Try asking "Joy of Cooking" for recipe that includes potatoes, half a stalk of celery, mini carrots and frozen chicken, but not wine because we're out.  "Joy of Cooking" will just sit there unhelpfully.  The interwebs, though, will hook you up.

Only it won't, really, because every damn recipe, even the ones rated "5 stars!" with comments like "this is the best thing ever!" will contain Onion Soup Mix, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom or both.  One even combined several "Cream of" whatevers and two types of powdered soup mix.  Seriously?  I think 90% of the recipes for crock pot chicken go something like this:    4 chicken breasts, 1 T dried minced onion, 1 bag Onion Soup Mix and a can of Cream of Chicken.  Put in crock pot all together and cook for 4 hours on high.  Serve over instant rice or noodles.  And all of them have 4 1/2 stars.


I mean, sure, I've done the easy-chicken-over-rice-with-mushroom-soup thing many times, and yes, it's good and it's simple, but why the flying hell does someone put this on the internet like it's some brand new amazing thing?   And who are the morons gushing over it in the comment section like it's the Best New Thing since forever?  I guess it's new to somebody. It gets a little tiring, though, to wade through 6, 534 recipes like this to find the one that doesn't include insta-food.

I swear, I could probably find a recipe for "Best Hotdogs Ever" that instructed users to nuke a hotdog (remove from packaging first) for 30 seconds, place inside bun (remove from packaging first), add a strip of mustard and eat.  The only thing missing would be details on how to chew.

The real reason, possibly, that I find this all so annoying is that I would actually USE some of these "recipes" if I could eat the ingredients.  But anything made by Campbell's contains gluten, and most of the dried soup recipes do, too -- or something that makes me sick in any event.  And somehow, I find them less annoying than the recipes that call for things that I have to google to figure out what the hell they are, like "sucanat."  Or pancake recipes that call for five different types of flour (buckwheat, millet, sorghum, brown rice and barley), coconut oil, organic eggs and fair trade vanilla.  These are the kinds of recipes that I suspect are out there less to inform people about how to cook fantastic pancakes and more to inform people about how fantastic (read: better than you) the recipe-makers are.  Besides, I've had these pancakes, and they chew like soggy cardboard, and taste like grass clippings.

So it's back to "Joy of Cooking" or one of the 4000 scraps of paper.

But first I need to clean my floor.