Why Hello There, and welcome to Kitchen Catastrophe’s semi-annual self-assessment and eye toward tomorrow, State of Catastrophe. If you don’t know what this is, I don’t blame you. See, as you may or may not be aware, today is the 3rd anniversary of the first post of Kitchen Catastrophe. That’s right, we’ve been updating here (mostly) weekly for 156 weeks now. And during our first year, I took a moment to stop and discuss where we’d been, and where we were trying to go in the coming. I then asked you, the people, whether you’d like to see posts like that one annually, or as often as every six months. Only one person answered, so I threw a hissy fit and didn’t come back for a whole two years.
Who even is this “Max” guy, I ask you?
I’m joking, of course. The fact is, I straight up FORGOT about the post last year. Between my father’s illness and a quick visit to the Urgent Care myself just beforehand (a fact that I mistakenly referred to as “a trip to the ER” in my painkiller-numbed haze), I just spaced. SO, in the spirit of continuity, let’s talk about what’s going down, what’s coming up, and what went sideways.
Thank you for coming to my Tech Talk
This wasn’t a part of the first State of Catastrophe, but I think it’s a nice visual detour and way to start this one, with a sort of “Christmas Grab-Bag”. This last Christmas gave me more technical tools for improving the way I interact with the site, so let’s talk about those!
The one downside to my ever-increasing phone camera setting is that high-resolution text looks like crap when resized via Paint. Which is what I’ve been using since the Squarespace photo-editor got gutted.
Moving from left to right, here’s what we’re looking at:
1. That’s a smart-phone/camera tripod, with a collection of lenses for the phone camera, and, more importantly, a remote that allows me to start and stop recording. This is a big deal for the site because one of the reasons it’s been so difficult to get videos for the Patreon/site is due to how much of my work I do in the late evenings or mornings, when I’m the only one present. And there are some shots that just aren’t possible with that. And it’s one of the reasons we sometimes end up starting posts but not finishing them: my hands get covered in batter, or raw meat juices, and now I can’t record it. Hopefully this little sucker reduces those moments.
2. That is a mandoline, which I only JUST learned is SPELLED differently from the instrument, despite being pronounced the same. Mandolines are, really, just slicing devices. It’ll allow me to make thinner and more consistent slices for fried goods, salads, and other things. That one is mostly just for convenience, though it’s also worth noting because I’m pretty sure I asked for it for Christmas the month before the site OPENED, and I got it this year. “The wheels of the gods grind slow”, I suppose.
3. This one…I’m a little embarrassed about. Partly because I feel like such a baby. See, I HAVE a headset already. But I wanted to explore some other options, because I can’t wear the one I have for too long before it starts to make my head feel squished. I think the issue is partly connected to sinus pressure, as the problem really cropped up around the time my brother’s cat came to stay with us. This makes me frustrated while trying to record, so I wanted to try another brand and see if that would help. Hopefully it does.
4. This guy is the most unexpected twist of the holiday season. You’ll recall from back in November I unveiled that my family had recently acquired a MULTICOOKER (since Insta-pot is a brand name.) And I figured that would be the big technical advance of my family’s cooking apparatuses (apparati? Spellcheck says no, but my knowledge of Latin says…whatever “yes” is in Latin.
Latin doesn’t have a direct “yes” equivalent. The closest is “Ita”, which means “it is so”. Because of course I was going to check my Latin notes.
Anyway, THAT device is what’s called a “sous vide water circulator”, a cooking tool that’s been the secret weapon of high-end kitchens for decades now, and is finally getting into the price range that you can see them in normal homes. (Ours was, thanks to clearance sales, around $50.) What are they? How do they work? We’ll tackle that in more detail later, but the basic idea is that they can heat water to very precise temperatures (under boiling), and keep it there for a very long time. Think of it as a very precise slow-cooker with a lot of fringe benefits we’ll get into later.
SO that’s the technical haul to help us start off. Let’s advance to the planning phase!
The Man with The Poorly Thought-Out Plan
I spend a lot of time ragging on my own poor organization skills on the site, but I want it pointed out that it’s really kind of Walt Disney’s fault. In Disney movies, it’s always the BAD guys who have the plans. The Good guys make it up as they go along. How else is a man supposed to be moral except by avoiding organization?
Let’s all remember that one prominent character’s VILLAIN SONG, where they establish their evil nature and goals, is literally titled “Be Prepared”.
What have we got planned? Well…I don’t want to say too much. Not because it’d ruin the surprise, but…because I am so bad at planning. Last week, I revealed to my Patrons a list of 25-ish recipes I was considering to make this year. But I’m embarrassed to say that, if you look at our first state of Catastrophe, my track record wasn’t SUPER great on getting them done. Of the seven recipes I bring up working on “soon”, I didn’t do FOUR of them. Well, technically three, but one of them took me an entire year to get to, so I didn’t do it “soon.” As such, I don’t want to lay out all the things I’m working on just to prove myself a liar again. But I know what I CAN say that’ll be accurate:
- Asian Foods. As I mentioned in the Mochitsuki post, before things got awkward, (or sad, at any rate) I displayed a CRATE of Asian foods that my family had recently picked up. And I’m not going to lie, a health portion of those foods are just different varieties of instant ramen, kit-kats, and so on, but SOME of them were ingredients. I can now make authentic dashi, and by extension, with some Tofu, I’ll be able to make Miso Soup. Will I? I don’t know, but I definitely grabbed enough ingredients that some Asian foods will be showing up. I have plans for Korean, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian meals I want to make, so I’m sure we’ll get to it.
- Eggs. One of my great failings in the last year was my inability to capitalize on my family’s new culinary wealth, in the dozens of eggs we get delivered to our back yard every month by our waddling fluff monsters. But the egg is a powerhouse ingredient, and it’s time I paid it its due.
Though at least some eggs have recently had quite a spot in the limelight.
- Holiday Foods/”Timely Treats”. This is a thing I strive to be better about every year, with mixed results, but I’m going to try to have a better grasp of this site’s “content tail”, meaning “If the post has to be up on Day X, I have to cook it Y days ahead.” If that sounds silly, consider that most cooking magazines have to cook their Thanksgiving foods in JULY, because of how ‘long’ the ‘tail’ in magazine publishing is. Mine’s much shorter, of course; I was able to have a post about the Mochitsuki event I attended on the 5th on the site by the 10th. And it can be even SHORTER…but the closer to an event we cut the post, the less help it is to you. It’s no good giving you a recipe FOR Valentine’s Day that afternoon if you don’t have time to read the post before date night, or, to take a more vivid example: St Paddy’s Day. Most people want Corned Beef on Paddy’s. But to home-make Corned Beef takes DAYS of curing, so even dropping it just on the Monday before is snipping a little close to your short’n’curlies, as the Irish might say. As such, I’m already sketching out the next 2 months, so I can have an idea of what needs to be done when.
And those are the main things I’m looking at in the next year. I have other trends and ideas, maybe something to do with like “meatless Mondays”, where once a month or every other month I promise to have one recipe that is vegetarian or Vegan. I’m also considering starting a thing where maybe once a month or so one of the recipes is a cocktail or two, in a vain effort to trim back some of my family’s ever-growing collection of liquors.
This is the amount of alcohol I had at my birthday.
This bar is much more heavily-laden.
One weird thing I’m going to try and do is re-introduce ‘anchor links’ to the site, because I keep reading people on social media complain about other sites not having them. With anchor links, I’ll be able to set-up a button toward the top of every post that lets you…it hurts me to say it…SKIP all my insight, comedy, and educational prattle, and just get to the recipe at the end. It’s a technology I used to have before we moved to Squarespace, and I recently discovered that at some point Squarespace got it, so I’m going to work on getting it back. (updating all the previous Catastrophes is going to be a BLAST, let me tell you. While the process sounds like it’ll only take around 5-6 minutes per post, that’s still around 13 HOURS of link creation to do. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay)
And lets wrap things up with a more external discussion, of things beyond the site itself.
One Should Try to Keep One’s Social Life and One’s Financial Life as Separate as Possible.
Now, when we posted the first State of Catastrophe, it was in part to warn readers of an ultimatum: we’d need to reach at least $30 a month to sustain the site beyond that year. And we actually hit that goal almost immediately! And then dropped out of it, as one of our Patrons experienced sudden financial difficulties. The climb back took time, but by the end of last year, we were well above it, and now make more than enough money that the technical side of the site isn’t actively costing us money!
Time to start Gambling!
That doesn’t mean that ‘the grind’, as we youths say, is over. Oh no. Right now, the site’s profits don’t cover the cost of the food itself, or real recompense for me. Technically, we could say that, with our current level of income that the part-time job of running the site is paying me around…$1.40 an hour. So there’s obviously room for improvement, but it’s loads better than when we were PAYING for the opportunity to work.
So we’ll be looking to grow our Patreon, of course. And beyond that, our social media presence in general. We’ve recently re-unified the account controls so that I can manage our Facebook, Twitter, (kind of) Patreon, and our new Instagram all from my phone, allowing me to respond to your questions and concerns faster, and keep things interesting. Also, I learned I can post things to both Instagram and Facebook at the same time, which will certainly up the number of tasty meals showing up on our Facebook.
The State of Catastrophe, in short, is strong. Much stronger than it was 2 years ago. A little sadder, a little wiser, and ready to kick some ass. So let me know what you want to hear about, talk about, and see, and we’ll see about making it a reality. As noted, I’m thinking of trying a cock-tail feature. If y’all don’t drink, is that going to be helpful? What kinds of diets do you guys want me to write for? I know we’ve got at least one vegan who reads the site, so I’ll remember to mark our recipes that she can eat a little more clearly. I do put ‘tags’ on our do we want more Gluten-free stuff? Should I figure out what Paleo means, and how I can eat rocks? Let me know! Whether by commenting here, messaging us on Facebook, hitting me up personally, whatever feels best for you, my dudes! So let’s keep making mistakes, failing better, and burning up our passions, for another Catastrophic Year!
MONDAY: THIS COLD WEATHER HAS JON IN A VICHYIOUS MOOD. LET’S PLUG A LEEK WITH A SOUP FROM VERSAILLES.
THURSDAY: JON RUMMAGES THROUGH FRANCE’S PANTRIES, HOPING FOR SOMETHING INTERESTING.