Hey everybody! Sorry about missing the Monday update this week, there was a lot of movement and alcohol involved in last weekend, as Alan alluded to in the Out of Order sign. After a month out of town, I finally had opening (and closing) weekend of my shows in Leavenworth, we struck the set, and drove back on Monday. That night, I slept for 13 hours straight, which I think is starting to edge toward a small coma. So, as you may guess, I’m pretty drained right now. But that’s not going to stop me from writing for you good people, oh no. Instead, I will channel my drained nature into a topic near and dear to my heart: lazy cooking. Or, if you want to be less judgmental, “simple” cooking.
Now, if you haven’t had an ear out in culinary circles, and since I assume you have more of a life than I do, I assume you haven’t, you may have missed a recent brouhaha about an incredibly specific topic: avocado toast. By which I mean, if you’re unfamiliar, the idea of putting avocado on a piece of toast, and eating it. That’s it. Why did this spark controversy? Well, a couple places recently released some avocado recipes, which, as you might guess, were rather short. Like, this short:
1 slice bread.
- Toast bread.
- Put avocado on Bread.
Some people protested that something this simple shouldn’t qualify as a ‘recipe’. Others were irritated at treating such a simple idea as something new. I personally was starting to lose the ability to read avocado as a real word, because I had seen it so many times, and had to remind myself it comes from the same Aztec word for “testicle” to ensure it retained meaning.
“What do they call this fruit again?” “Balls” “Can’t imagine why.”
Now, I’m not here to tell you how to think. Except when I am directly attempting to do so, but ignore that for now. If you think a recipe has to have a certain number of steps or ingredients before it qualifies as a “real” recipe, that’s fine. Hell, I fully agree that, while the recent movement toward “simplicity” has been cool in many ways, it can be a bit hard to swallow (pun intended) if that comes at a restaurant. Any time I buy a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks, I have to bite back a snarky comment about how they try to gussy up their options. “On a flaky croissant roll” has at least two useless words on it, since both “roll” and “flaky” are implied by “croissant”. Hell, if you had somehow made a NON-flaky croissant, I’d probably be MORE impressed. And then they say “$6 please,” and I grumble “You’re lucky it’s another 500 feet to the McDonald’s. I could get this for a DOLLAR.” And they say “What, sir?” And I realized I was talking to myself in public again and oh god now I’m telling you this whole story and I look like an idiot.
Looking like an idiot is, of course, a constant fear for me. God Forbid I appear anything less than dignified.
What I was saying, before social anxiety set in, is that I understand the push-back some of these people are giving. It comes back to the Sexy Food Syndrome I’ve discussed a couple times: the simpler a dish is, the harder it is to make it really appealing or engaging. And, if you’re already in the know, it can seem pedestrian. “Oh, c’mon, everyone knows about Avocado Toast! I’ve been making it for 8 years!” But here’s the thing: you had to learn it somewhere. One time, you were ignorant as well. Heck, I’ve been cooking for 10 years, and I’ve never, to my recollection, had it. I’ve eaten plenty of toasted sandwiches that had avocado, but just a slice of avocado on toast? Not to my knowledge.
And I think the argument misses something great about these kinds of meals: the freedom from stress. I spent the last 2 weeks in a cabin several miles out of town. My major cooking instrument was a 14” portable grill, or a 2 range stove top in another cabin. As you can imagine, my cooking wasn’t supremely fancy. Mostly, I ate hot dogs, hamburgers, and other grilled meats. But you know what was great about those meals? The fact that once I had the coals hot, it was just a matter of time and attention. I wasn’t worried about putting ingredients in at the wrong time, or needing to prep this or that. It just happened.
“It just happened” is also a common line for premature ejaculation. Premature caption-ation is why you’re getting a picture of pasta before I talk about pasta. I swear, this has never happened before.
One day, I went to the stove top and made pasta. Pound of spaghetti, half pound of kielbasa, cup of tomato basil sauce. Boil one, fry the other, toss them all in the same pan. Done. Dinner for like, 6 people, handled in 15 minutes, done while incredibly intoxicated. Because I don’t always want to stop having a good time to make food. And I haven’t always had the foresight or time to prep things ahead. And you know what? I got more direct praise for that meal than my last three cooking note recipes. (Though not as much as for my next one. Tune in Monday to see what drew such praise!)
And I’m certain you’ve got some recipes you love that are similarly simple. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup, for instance, typically only has 4 ingredients. My favorite Chocolate Mousse only has 3: chocolate, salt, and eggs. My parents will mix several packs of ramen noodles with frozen peas and diced left-over meat. There’s a thousand simple and satisfying recipes out there. And I don’t think you should feel ashamed to make them, or to share them.
NEXT TIME: JON GRILLS SOME THINGS THAT ARE MILDLY COMPLEX, BUT STILL PRETTY SIMPLE.