[Sca-cooks] Elizabeth Crocker

Christiane christianetrue at earthlink.net
Mon Jan 21 07:11:54 PST 2008

>On Jan 20, 2008, at 10:31 AM, Pat Griffin wrote:
>> I'm not a professional.  I never have taken cooking classes, except  
>> for one
>> semester of Home Ick in high school.  BUT, as a housewife, I did  
>> cook mass
>> quantities for such things as PTA or Farm Bureau fund raisers.  So,  
>> yes, I
>> have peeled and diced 75 lbs. of onions on a semi regular basis and  
>> I've
>> dressed, cleaned, cut up, marinated, and cooked 100 chickens at a  
>> time.  I
>> don't think I am unique in that, or even unusual.  I think that most  
>> women
>> who are "just" housewives and homemakers do the same.
>How semi-regular? Once or maybe twice a day, five, maybe six days a  
>week, for years? If yes, I think perhaps your experience is unusual.
>Let me emphasize the fact that I am not now, nor have I been,  
>denigrating anybody's skills, nor have I referred to anyone at any  
>point as "just" anything. The question was raised on why some culinary  
>professionals might have this attitude. I've tried to explain why; it  
>doesn't mean I hold this view, and the reason doesn't even really need  
>to be good, any more than it needs to be for all the other bad or  
>unfair things that exist in the world. It just needs to be true, and  
>from what I've seen, it is.

I think her experience was not unusual for her area of the country, where big social organization dinners are/were done on a regular basis by a few of the moms. Where I grew up and learned how to cook (Bergen County, New Jersey, congested bedroom community of NYC) more and more moms were working and less inclined to get involved in community events like that. Big school event dinners were often professionally catered or held in a local restaurant. Now, my mom has cooked for 20 people for holidays, and my aunt and my cousin Laura on Christmas Eve prepared and plated seven different kinds of fish dishes (not to mention all of the sides, like olive salad, stuffed hot peppers, stuffed mushrooms, and cheese trays with roasted red peppers and fresh tomato) with a military-like precision). And I cook for bands on a semi-regular basis (which also involves feeding support staff, DJs. girlfriends, and others who are invited back to the green room, so say food for 10-15 people). But even then, none of us are chopping 75 pounds of onions. Quite frankly, my onion dicing technique sucks. My knives are far from speedy. Another thing too, the professional kitchens call for extreme specialization. Most of us home cooks are generalists. Sauces? Moi? It is to laugh. I occasionally make gravy for turkey and chicken, but if you want sauce on your steak, here's the A1, chief. 

Not to say that the home cook can't occasionally wow a professional chef. The aforementioned cousin Laura had two neighbors, both professional chefs, over for dinner. Because she had too much of the roasted pureed eggplant and provolone filling for the stuffed cherry peppers, she popped some of it into her mushroom caps for baking, and the chefs raved. A drummer for one band from NYC who works mostly as a professional chef thought my chocolate chip cookies are the bomb. My mom, dessert queen extraordinaire, has had caterers ask her to come work for them as their dessert provider.

But stick me in a professional kitchen, and I would run screaming for the back door. The pace, the yelling, the hot liquids in motion everywhere ... not so much my scene. Professional cooking schools are there to get students acclimated to that kind of atmosphere, and give them the skills they need to survive. Professional cooks are also trained to work as a team. Home cooks, not so much. Nothing is as interesting to watch as a grandmother, mother, daughter, and daughter-in-law all trying to work together in the grandmother's kitchen. Depending on the family, it could go reasonably smoothly or be the cause of a decade-long rift among relations. And everyone has their own best way of doing things that the other person thinks is super stupid.


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