Good evening, friends and neighbors!
One of the great joys in my life is dining with friends- whether cooking or being served. Very often, however, I find myself in a curious situation:
"I was so nervous making this for you, since you're a chef and all..."
"Oh, I bet you could do it better...."
Other pro cooks and chefs I know have met with the same thing, serious and in jest.
I get it. I really do. Today's pop culture has cranked up the image of the "celebrity chef" to 11, and whenever someone personally knows a chef, they immediately have clips of "Chopped" or "America's Next Top Chef" running through their mind- an excoriating review of their works with sharp jokes, pointed criticism, and bitter rejection.
Anthony Bourdain, in one of his various interviews, answered this situation and others like with what he called the "Grandma's Turkey Rule." The allegory is as follows:
Your grandmother doesn't cook very much, but when she does, it's her Thanksgiving turkey- and it's HORRIBLE. It's dry. It's under-seasoned. It's over-salted. The gravy is brown water with lumps of starch floating in it like the memories of lost childhood dreams.
She's proud of it, and she makes it once a year, for the family she loves.
Thanksgiving comes around, and you sit down and get served shingles of that wretched affront to the poultry world. What do you do?
According to Anthony Bourdain, you choke it down, smile, say thank you very much and ask for seconds.
This is the "Grandma's Turkey Rule"- respect for authentic hospitality. Just as it's important to be a gracious host, it is vital to be a gracious guest as well. Unless it is truly against your religion, or a medical reason keeping you from tucking in to what you're served in someone's house, you smile and eat.
People of the world, you are cooking.
You are cooking for US.
It is food you are giving us from the kindness of your heart, and that you have theoretically worked very hard on.
We will say thank you, and we will MEAN IT.
This is not a TV show. It is not a professional kitchen, and we are not at work.
We will simply be grateful that we are being fed.
Good evening, friends and neighbors!
So today, I decided to try something new. Tonight's blog entry would be all about you guys, and your questions! To that end, I hopped on Reddit and spent all evening doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything!)
Here's some of the best questions and answers that came out:
Hi! I'm an amateur baker myself, although I've not had loads of experience with pastry beyond the usual shortcrust and pâte sucrée, so I'm planning on doing a few recipes with puff pastry at some point soon. Basically, do you have any tips for making decent puff pastry? -ManicMetalhead
The best tip I can think of for making puff pastry is keeping your butter as cold as possible, only letting it get as warm as strictly necessary. Puff pastry gets its flaky layers from the ultra-thin layers of butter melting during baking and creating cavities in the dough. If it's too warm, the butter will melt early, and you'll get greasy pastry. I'm also guessing you're talking about classic French puff pastry. If you're really dedicated to making it by hand (without the use of a rolling machine or sheeter), your arms will want to fall off after the first few turns! There are other formulas for "rough" puff pastry that are just as tasty and don't require the hellish amount of rolling pin work.
Best book(s) for baking amateurs? - Senorpapagirgio
Several! I heartily recommend the classic "Joy of Cooking" and "Joy of Baking" books. They are indespensible resources for basic recipes and skills. After that, I would recommend "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, "Professional Baking" by Wayne Gisslen, and "How Baking Works" by Paula Figoni for mastering and understanding the chemistry aspects. After those, recipe books for your favorite cuisines! Good luck!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?- Punkdoctor1000
Seriously though, I still see myself running the Black Hat Bakery, likely as a mobile establishment but possibly as a brick and mortar if the opportunity presents. I see myself providing cookies, pies, and tarts directly to the customers who need them.
I also frankly see myself being wide awake and caffeine-addled at 3am, but that comes with the territory.
Hi Matt. I just wanted to vouch that you're an awesome baker, and an even awesomer person. (That's a word.) I've known Matt since he was a kid, and he baked an awesome cake for my daughter's birthday.
My question is: with your amazing success at weight loss, do you find it hard to work around food all the time?- Tiredmom14
Awww thank you! The fact is, I really don't. After spending so much time around sweets, you truly don't want any at the end of the day. I almost always crave meat and veggies for dinner-MAYBE with something sweet after.
What's your favorite "secret" recipe? -NorbitGorbit
My favorite "secret" recipe might be my dad's meatloaf. Unless you're a member of the family, you can't make it exactly right.
Thanks everyone who asked questions for the great night! If you've got any questions, leave them in the comments, or get in touch through Facebook or tweet me @BlackHatBakery!
Good evening, friends and neighbors!
This week has been rather a stressful and hectic one, and seeing as how my last several entries were all rather serious or somber, I thought it was high time for a little more levity in this blog. Therefore, please enjoy-
My Favorite Baking Tunes
Who doesn't like bopping around the kitchen to the right music when they're in the mood? This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some of my favorite tunes and why.
Feel free to send me yours, or share them in the comments! There's always more room in my bakery playlist!
Candyman (Christina Aguilera)
Because men can cook, and be dead sexy doing it! Love the popping, vintage feel of this song.
Rodeo- Hoedown (Aaron Copland)
"Beef. It's what's for dinner."
Hoochie Coochie Man (Joe K K and Zydeco Force)
I loved visiting New Orleans many years ago, and part of it (besides the food!) was the wild, earthy madness of zydeco music. Perfect song when you're really feeling the baking mojo, and you feel more like a witch doctor than a baker.
Mambo Italiano (Renato Carosone)
Just something about this song makes you want to whirl around the kitchen, flip things in pans, and toss pizza in the air.
Sometimes you want to be calm, serene, and careful. Sometimes you want to light things on fire and rock out over the stove.
Pump It Up (Elvis Costello)
Another song for when you're feeling the groove of your work, and everything is just in the zone. You're another Freak in the Freak Kingdom...
Captain Kelly's Kitchen (Dropkick Murphys)
Does this even NEED explaining?
It's Tricky (Run DMC)
Hey, it is sometimes!
Felt Good On My Lips (Tim McGraw)
There is a storied relationship between music, love, and food. Why not celebrate country-style?
Louie Louie (The Kingsmen)
Because why the hell not?!
Song of the South (Alabama) and My Front Porch Looking In (Lonestar)
A kitchen is the heart of the house- it's where the family comes together and eats. Why not music that reminds you of being home?
I Will Play for Gumbo and Fruitcakes (Jimmy Buffett)
They say, "Write about what you know." That's Jimmy Buffett in a nutshell.
A couple honorable mentions as well...
(If I Knew You Were Comin') I'd've Baked A Cake (Ethel Merman)
Tell me you didn't expect THIS one...
Fighting 17th (Hans Zimmer)
Some of you may be confused why the theme from the movie "Backdraft" is here. Those who recognize it though...
That's about all for right now. What are your favorite baking songs? Cooking songs? Just songs for being the kitchen? Let me know!
About the Author
The Black Hat Baker, a.k.a. Matt Strenger, lives in SE Portland, Oregon as a professional baker. Here, Matt bakes, cooks, exercises, and explores, returning to his wife and their hobbit hole up Mt. Tabor to write about all of it.
Email the BHB at blackhatbakery(at)gmail(dot)com
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