The Symptoms of Being An Armchair Chef

Every day I watch it. Food TV Network. Somehow, with the hundreds of channels I have to choose from, my television ends up with cooking shows playing. I can watch almost anyone cook pretty much anything, whether I like the food being cooked or not. I can watch that smug David Rosengarten drone on and on about olive oil, like I care about what he thinks. I am enthralled with Ming Tsai putting a western spin on eastern cuisine and can watch him cook different kinds of seafood all day, even though I am allergic to seafood. The Two Fat Ladies crack me up, even though half the time I don’t know what they are talking about and the food they make looks absolutely disgusting. I just love watching people cook.

So why don’t I get off my ass and cook something like the chefs on television? I watch Sara Moulton cook live every night and say to myself, “Hey, I can do that!” I watch Mario Batali make pasta by making a well out of flour and adding eggs and water, and dream of doing that myself. Every time I watch Bobby Flay and Jack McDavid Grillin’ and Chillin’ , I look at my grill longingly, wondering why I don’t make the special marinades the masters use.

Why is it that when it gets to dinnertime, all my side dishes end with “roni”? Rice a Roni, Pasta Roni, cheese and macaroni. Why do all my vegetables come from the freezer and get directly put into the microwave? Why can’t I julienne my carrots? Why can’t I grill asparagus and wrap it in prosciutto? Why do I always use dried flakes instead of making mashed potatoes from real spuds? Why? Because I’m afraid.

I am afraid to buy fresh vegetables in case I cut them wrong, or make a bad sauce to put on them. I can’t stand to look at my husband as he is trying something new I just cooked, and him looking at me and saying “So, why did you decide to make this?” It is just so much easier to take my frozen carrots out of the freezer and spray I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! on them, or if I’m feeling gourmet, put them in a pan and mix them up with brown sugar and butter (a recipe I actually learned by watching TV Food Network!)

I’m afraid of nasty looks from checkout people. I like veal, but I’m afraid that the cashier will give me some nasty look because I’m not a PC chef, so I stick with beef and chicken. I don’t even buy pork tenderloin anymore because one time the checkout guy looked at it in it’s vacuum-sealed package and made a face like I was buying packaged pig shit. I don’t know why, but I seem to care what people around me think about my purchases. Maybe it is because I often have snarky thoughts when I see people buying chitterlings or lard.

I’m afraid to buy all the fancy herbs and spices because I don’t want to waste my money if I end up not liking said herb or spice. A few weeks ago I made my husband spend good money on Bobby Flay’s chicken herb rub. I rubbed it on some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and grilled it. After tasting it wondered why I didn’t just use the seasoned salt I always use when grilling chicken breasts, and felt bad that I made my husband spend so much money on something I will probably never use again.

I’m also afraid of wasting money on all the gadgets the chefs use to make their fancy meals. I don’t have expensive pots and pans, and my knives have much to be desired. When I got married, I got a number of wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, and other various kitchen stuff, but they are getting worn and from watching all these shows I now want all the expensive stuff. With all the cooking I don’t do, my friends and family tell me it isn’t worth spending all that money on items I will rarely use. I try to tell them that if I had the gadgets I would cook more, but they don’t believe me.

I’m afraid of overcooking and undercooking. I’m a very impatient cook, so if something takes over a half-hour to cook, I get antsy. I’ll keep taking a meatloaf out of the oven and cutting into it to check to see if it is cooking through, or cutting into a piece of chicken on the grill to see if it is still pink in the middle. I can’t let things go, so when I see people on these cooking shows make a pie with meats and vegetables in it and put it in the oven for hours at a time, I know it would drive me nuts because I couldn’t cut into the pie to check for doneness.

I’m afraid that I’ll follow a new recipe wrong and ruin the food. I have these nightmares from when I had to take home economics in middle school, and for some reason or another I would read a recipe wrong and end up totally screwing up the food I prepared. Like I said earlier, I get upset if people don’t like my cooking so I will usually only try a new recipe if I’m cooking only for myself. The catch-22 situation to that is, when I’m only cooking for myself I really don’t want to cook and will only have a sandwich or a Hot Pocket, and some soup. Of course, the soup will be from a can, because I don’t have many herbs and spices, good vegetables, or anything to start a soup.

I’m afraid I’ll get fatter than I already am. Most of the cooks (Emeril Lagasse I’m looking at you) use the richest, fattiest ingredients in their preparations. Many times I have wanted to make a flourless chocolate cake, but I know it is loaded with calories. The chicken francaise looks easy enough to make, but just looking at all that butter the chicken fries in makes me bloat. I dream of making an alfredo sauce, and having the metabolism to burn it off easily. A girl can dream, can’t she?

So for now, I’ll just keep on watching Iron Chef and laughing to myself when the chefs have to wrestle live octopi to cook with or when celebrity judges have to try squid ink ice cream. I’ll try to remember cooking tips from the guest chefs on Cooking Live (like how ice cream helps take hot/spicy tastes out of your mouth. One more reason why ice cream is the Treat Of The Gods). And I’ll just stay in my comfy chair and fantasize about cooking as well as the chefs of Food TV Network.