On the Chopping Block

Ok so here’s the thing: I hate the show Chopped. Have I seen dozens of episodes over the years? Sure! But I watch with a seething rage wishing they would just use normal fucking ingredients to make food that actually tastes good, on purpose.

That being said, the idea of taking a random set of ingredients you have laying around–NOT bull tongue or pickled eggs for god’s sake– and forming a great meal out of them is something I end up implementing in real life at least once a month. Usually right before payday and right after the rent check went through, am I right ladies?

I think the sentiment of Chopped is entirely accurate: certain flavors and textures pair well together no matter what and if you have a deep understanding of this concept then you can probably make a decent meal out of almost any combination of ingredients. It’s something Samin Nosrat touches on in her book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, as well. Ultimately this is the basis of knowing how to cook– and remember, “anyone can cook” (Bird, Brad, and Jan Pinkava. Ratatouille. Walt Disney Studios, 2007).

But it didn’t dawn on me until I was older that not everyone possesses an innate knowledge of how to make food that tastes good. One time in college when I was making a balsamic and wine braised pork-loin (as one does when they’re 21 and lacking social skills) my roommate sat and watched me cook and kept asking questions like “aren’t you following a recipe?” and “how do you know how to do that?”

When I thought about that last question I realized I probably had to give more credit than I would’ve liked to the hours upon hours of Food Network I had consumed throughout my childhood and adolescence. Ina Garten and Michael Chiarello practically raised me. (In truth, I come from a long line of cooks and bakers from whom I’m lucky enough to have inherited some generational kitchen wealth, but that’s a more heartfelt story for a sappier day. )

So as much as I abhor the disgusting, vile food substances once-respectable chefs subject themselves to on shows like Chopped, I can’t lie and say I don’t pretend I’m on the set of Food Network anytime I open my fridge and a proverbial tumbleweed passes by. I’m so happy to know that as long as I have the most basic of pantry items, it’s entirely possible to concoct an enjoyable and semi-healthful meal that’ll get me through ’til my next grocery haul.

this blog post’s food for thought: what’s the best/worst struggle meal you’ve ever prepared for yourself? every once in a while i’ll mash together chickpeas and canned tuna and eat that for a week…are there certain pantry staples you always keep on hand? if you’re shit out of luck, what’s your favorite take-out option when you’re not trying to go full 4 for $4?

drop a comment, cowards

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