This has nowt to do with books, studying, work or libraries. It’s a random one.
We’re sharing the cooking and I’ll readily admit that Helen, my wife, is cooking the most. She and I have been figuring out the shopping orders and meal planning. Connor, the man-child, has been helping out with lunches and has now begun to join in with cooking some of the evening meals.
We’ve been talking, quite openly, about how cooking in different contexts requires versatility and an ability to adapt skills. Connor is an excellent competition and industry chef. If you want something fancy and complicated, he’s your guy. It will take him a long time and he’ll use every tool available in the kitchen, but it’ll be worth it. If you want someone to work as part of a team to deliver multiple covers at the same time for sustained periods, he’s your guy. Since working for Wahaca, and now Zizi’s, his approach to brigade cooking, minimal wastage and preparation is impressive. Both restaurants have an open kitchen and – before the apocalypse started – we loved eating in both and watching him work: controlled, efficient and fast.
But we would also watch him – eating our lovely, discounted food – and comment that he is just not like that at home! When cooking, he’s messy, slow and forgetful. As he’s recently completed a reflective essay for college, we talked about this at length. He and I have decided that context is key and he doesn’t adapt his mentality to suit the situation. For instance, he’ll rush at college because he’s used to working at pace in industry kitchens for fear of the wrath of the Head Chef! At home, he isn’t mindful of equipment use or mess because he’s used to cooking in teams at college and work, the latter with the benefit of a KP. I did point out to him that at Wahaca, the chefs took turns at being the KP and he hated being KP when the other chefs were chaotic… Also, any chefs who were too messy or wasteful during their shift had to do an extra KP stint as punishment! The fact he doesn’t apply that memory to cooking at home is evidence that he finds it hard to adapt his approach and learn from experiences.
Anyway, Helen and Connor cooking across Monday 4th to Wednesday 6th of May led to some disappointing results. I amused myself my writing each of them a Trip-Advisor-style-review… Apparently this is now going to be a new game and we’ll each be reviewing one another’s meals moving forward 😂 I have no doubt I will suffer their revenge!
Dish: chocolate brownies
This is a tried and tested, gluten free recipe by Leon. It uses haricot beans in lieu of flour; whenever Helen and I have cooked the brownies in the past, no one could believe they’re flourless. They’re rich, chocolatey and gooey in all the right places.
Connor’s attempt: chalky, savoury, flat, crumbly, unrecognisable, soul-destroyingly-disappointing. Somehow, he had baked them for 4 hours and they were still undercooked. Indeed, the portion gifted to his best friend was tasted, spat out and unceremoniously binned. Even Connor thought they were dirty. They are currently festering in a tin, uneaten and ignored.
Dish: Pad Thai
A firm favourite, I was excited to have Helen’s famous Pad Thai for dinner. Sigh. There were no nuts, it was super dry, the green beans were very obviously the frozen kind and the beef Quorn pieces were a disaster. It was filling and the cauliflower pakoras served on the side (which I later discovered weren’t gluten free) were delicious. I do hope Helen returns to her older, more reliable recipe.
Dish: tomato soup with mozzarella and fruit toast
The soup was tasty and the chef is handsome… There endeth the positives of this less than mediocre experience.
The soup wasn’t hot enough and all the cheese had coagulated into one rubbery lump of sorrow. Also, I ordered fruit toast (all my gluten free bread is stored in the freezer) but the chef didn’t pay attention and tried to coerce me into eating regular toast. He wasn’t at all professional when I refused. For those of you who don’t know, all gluten free bread is significantly smaller than its normal equivalent, so I requested three slices. The third slice was burnt and I was told the chef would “scrape the black bits off.” I insisted upon a fresh slice so, all-in-all, the chef had used six slices of hard-to-obtain gluten free bread to provide me with the necessary three.
Imagine my horror (given how hungry I was due to the human-error-induced-delay) when I discovered the new slice of toast was, in fact, also burnt! The chef had served it pale side up: an old and nasty trick to mask ineptitude because you are blissfully unaware of the toast’s true nature until you bite into it.
My wife enjoyed her dirty toastie (leftover chilli and cheese) but commented that service was slow. When I complained to the chef, he was unapologetic. We are eating in the same venue tonight – due to limited options – so we hope there’s an improvement.