Just because I enjoy cooking and baking, and think in terms of cake mix does not mean I’m fit to be a chef.
Chefs are under a lot of pressure. I don’t like pressure. In fact, I kind of hate it.
I hate pressure of deadlines, aka huge threats that loom above your head like a menacing dark cloud, demanding you to complete something you really have no desire of doing (hellooooo, English homework).
I also hate the pressure from others, like, “you should buy that, it’d look soooo cute on you.” Thanks, salesgirl, but you’d tell me an empty tortilla chip bag would look good on me if it meant a notch in your commission. Or, “oh my god, we should so hang out, it’s been forever!” That’s because the last time we “hung out” was in middle school, and back then, things like Backstreet Boys, slap bracelets and Happy Bunny were still relevant… so I’d rather not repeat history and catch up; I prefer to have you sit silently on my Facebook friend’s list, thankyouverymuch.
But seriously, becoming a chef would be awful to me. It would require wearing scrubs to work which sounds totally comfy, but come on… they look so depressing. The last thing I want is to wear pants with Tweety bird on my ass like some 45 year old dental assistant while I’m trying to be superior and make ritzy things like duck souffle and beef tartar.
The chef’s life is just not for me. Wanna know why? It’s story-time.
Once upon a time, a few semesters ago, I was fresh into college and thought it’d be a fabulous idea to take some culinary classes at my local school. I enrolled late, so I barely squeaked into a Wine & Spirits class and a class called ‘Becoming A Chef.’
A class about becoming a chef? Sounds fun, right? A whole bunch of kids eager to learn the ropes of becoming a chef and get down with cooking? Count me in.
While wine & spirits was not surprisingly about wine and spirits (and involved some Tuesday AM drinking but shhh, I didn’t say that), becoming a chef was about bullshitting around the school’s cafe about heirloom tomatoes and how they significantly enhance a dish and watching boooooring movies about some Somalian dude trying to cook.
Definitely not as engaging, fun and exciting as I thought becoming a chef would be…unless you call watching a three-hour movie about aforementioned Somalian man make some butternut squash soup ‘exciting’. (Spoiler alert: it isn’t).
Plus, the teacher was a total dump and reminding me of Ina Garten, one of my least favorite Food Network personalities: a) because of the whole Make A Wish thing; and b) because I cannot watch her without feeling horribly insecure about not being a “chef” and stocking my pantry with things like aged mozzarella, organic heirloom tomatoes, butcher-cut New York strip steaks and that-weird-grain-that-intimidates-me, quinoa.
You know what is in my kitchen? Pop-Tarts. Copious amounts of cake mixes and pudding mixes. Some canned soup. Pre-shredded mozzarella… the store brand. The cheapest bacon I could find. And Hamburger Helper.
Of course, if I were granted money and time, I’d love to make some elegant dinner every night for my loving family in our consistently-clean home. But the fact is, we all work or go to school, there are days when the floor is more like a black fur rug than tile and we don’t have money to afford to buy organic or shop at farmer’s markets or be buddy-buddy with our butcher. And I would never make anyone feel bad about not being able to afford certain items, or make a meal from Hamburger Helper because of it.
Plus, have you had the latest Hamburger Helper flavors, like the lasagna? It’s really yummy. I bet if we served it to Ina and hid the boxes, she wouldn’t know the difference.
The fact that my teacher only exacerbated this arrogant-chef-attitude only made me angrier against becoming a chef. Being in that class was like Nazi Chef Class, where everyone learns to judge people who use boxed cake mix and where they frown at people who buy their produce at Walmart because it’s cheaper. And at the end, they all saluted the teacher and chanted “We are the Superior!” and then tittled in their made-up arrogant-chef language. Just kidding, I made that last part up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a secret band of asshole chefs lurking around.
I get that not all people in that class or program are arrogant, ignorant chef-jerks, but the majority had that mentality. And I get that I could be a chef and change the way people see things and take interest in food, but that’s too much work. To be honest, I only enjoyed the program because I got to sneak sips of wine on Tuesdays. The rest was boring and stupid as hell. And in the end, I realized two things:
A) Being a ‘Chef’ is subjective. Anyone can be a chef, because being a ‘chef’ is kind of undefinable. Just because you know what the hell ‘panzanella’ is or you’re cheeky with the head chef at the most popular restaurant in town doesn’t make you any more of a chef than someone who cooks strictly from home, jazzing up boxes of mac n cheese for their family of four; and,
B) I don’t want to be “a chef.” By “a chef” I mean, I don’t want to pursue that career. Hot commercial kitchens=bad for pores and not for me. But, eventually, I would like to be a “chef”, and by that, I mean, I’d like to continue to expand my culinary knowledge and know-how and become more versed with the worlds of cooking and baking, and, eventually, become a “chef” in my own right.
Ta-da! Now I think it’s time for a glass of wine and some boxed mac n cheese, what do you think!?
Or how about some cookies? Preferably some Pretzel M&M Cookies, because that’s what I had on hand and I was feeling particularly fancy today. I even sprinkled on some sea salt, to be a little culinarienne.
Eat your heart out, Ina.
Pretzel M&M Cookies *adapted by Two Peas & Their Pod’s recipe
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt, plus 1 tsp more, for tops
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups pretzel M&M’s candies
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray two cookie sheets with cooking spray, then blot excess spray with a tissue. Set aside.
2. Whisk flour, salt, baking soda & powder in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Next, cream your butter and sugars until blended, about 2 minutes. Add in eggs and vanilla extract, and beat until smooth and combined. Gradually add flour mixture, about one cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Stir in your chocolate chips and pretzel M&M’s candies until blended.
4. Using a small cookie dough scoop, portion dough about 1-2″ apart on your prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle tops lightly with remaining salt. Bake, approximately 10-12 minutes or until cookies are light golden brown and set; do not overbake! If baking two pans at the same time, rotate pans halfway through baking time to ensure even baking. Cool on pans about 5 minutes, then carefully transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Store airtight.
Or the even more semi-homemade way…
1 pkg chocolate chip cookie dough mix, plus ingredients on back of package
1 cup pretzel M&M’s candies
Sea salt (or kosher salt) for sprinkling
1. Follow package directions in preparing cookie dough. Stir in pretzel M&M’s candies. Portion out dough onto prepared baking sheets, then sprinkle with sea salt. Bake, according to package directions. Follow same cooling instructions as above.
I really outdid myself this time, didn’t I?
The sea salt… the pretzels… the chewy and the crunchy and the buttery goodness… it’s all there in one compact, easy-but-tasty cookie.
No organic chocolate. No cruelty-free flour or whatever. Just goodness, simplified, into yummy cookies. That, my friends, is how it’s done.
(Food Network, I’m available for hire anytime)