The only thing keeping me from earning the title of Master Chef is my inattention to detail when it comes to plating.
Well, to be honest, my inattention to cleanliness, flavour, knife safety, vegetables, foods not coloured brown, personal hygiene, cumin, and pretty much any appliance not hooked to a propane tank might be holding me back as well. But mostly it's the plating.
The reason I know about things such as Master Chef, plating and cumin is that about a month ago I let my guard down for a few moments and my wife somehow gained access to the TV remote control.
I normally do my best to carry out my duties as a man and guard the remote as if it were the last batch of antidote for some horrible disease like polio or Bieber fever. This urge to control the family's entertainment centre dates back to pre-historic times when families would sit and stare at the new invention known as "fire" and it would be the dad's responsibility to throw geckos on there every few seconds to liven it up.
That's all they did for fun. Well, they tried football for a little while but soon discovered it was too violent.
When my wife does find the remote she usually navigates our TV to some sort of ridiculous show featuring a mouthy interior decorator arguing with some even mouthier homeowner about throw pillows. It's at this point that I take notice of our own home furnishings, sizing up our possessions and wondering which would be best for smashing my brains out.
The show Master Chef was another of my wife's choices, but thankfully it offered just enough guy stuff - bacon, competition, a distinct lack of interior decorators - that I could sit through it without constantly calculating which plateglass window adjacent to our living room I'd like to jump through.
The show stars shouty celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and his two sidekicks Fat Chef and Mean Chef. Ramsay is the most well known of the three, famous for other shows in which he does nothing but yell and curse at hapless contestants in his own kitchen. In the controlled kitchen of Master Chef there was less swearing but my editor, another male roped in to this show by his partner, still complained about the British chef 's limited vocabulary, claiming that everything was one of only three things: awesome, terrific or amazing.
When watching the show you can't help but think about what the judges would have to say about your own cooking. I already know what would be on my menu if I had to prepare a dish for the judges. People who have visited my house more than once also know what I would serve because it's the same thing I make every time I have guests over: barbecue somethingor-other.
Like the TV remote, barbecue is a sacred tradition passed down from father to son. I remember my dad laying out charcoal briquettes and then plugging something into the wall that looked like a narrow metal tennis racket with no strings. The racket would get red hot and, when placed in the middle of the briquettes, would heat up the charcoal enough to cook four small burgers in just 30 or 40 hours.
My setup is a lot more powerful and nuanced.
First I turn the propane on high. Then I put all the food on. Then I spend 15 minutes crushing two beers, a mandatory action clearly stated in the standard barbecue code of ethics. Then the food is ready.
Here's where the plating problem arises: usually I don't have any plates. My kitchen is tiny, so we can't serve a bunch of guests inside. I'm usually so busy making sure that the thousands of kids running around aren't throwing themselves onto the grill (we call that one getting "gecko'd") that I never have time to set out a fancy patio spread. And, to be honest, I don't own a fancy patio spread. Or, for that matter, a patio.
We always end up just kind of standing around the barbecue. On the occasions that I'm smart enough to think ahead I'll have delicious buns ready to catch the meat. If I did not think ahead I'll just throw everything into one big tray and let people go at it. If things get really frantic I'll just grab steaks right off the grill and foist them upon unsuspecting guests.
"Andy, these steaks are cooked and seasoned absolutely awesome," chef Ramsay would say. "Well done. The only thing that could make this more terrific is some sort of cold dish to help me deal with these amazing third degree burns on my hands."
Understood, chef. Great advice. And thank you for not saying anything about how much more awesome my place would look with some terrific throw pillows.
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