Bad Cooking

In cooking, there are two roads you can take. If you have fresh, local, good products, you should mess with them as little as possible. Let the flavors of the food shine on their own.

If you don’t have fresh, local, seasonal fish, produce or meat, you have to fuss with what you’ve got, use sauces, many ingredients, herbs, cooking techniques, etc to make food taste anything half decent.

Remember how I said Spanish food tends to be atrocious? That’s because they can’t stop fussing around with wonderful products they’ve got.

Example. In Tudela, they have the world famous Ugly Tomato, which is an heirloom tomato that tastes out of this world. We visited this local hole-in-the-wall eatery that serves ugly tomato salad. The tomato is so good that all you need is a pinch of salt and a drizzle of balsamic, and you’ve got a meal. But instead of letting the tomato be, the cook dumped a can of tuna on top of the tomato. Cheap canned tuna! On a fresh heirloom tomato! Why, gods of cooking, why?

Even in San Sebastián, a place where cooking is historically revered, you can find correctly cooked, unmessed with seafood in one very overbooked, very expensive place. Everybody has seafood. But everybody else messes with it. Cans of tuna or old, very salty anchovies dumped on top of everything are ubiquitous. If you’ve got extremely fresh fish like they do, all you need is put it on the grill for 3 minutes on each side and you are done. If you have old, defrosted fish that’s lost all flavor, then of course you need to do sauces and try to build flavor. Canned tuna is still a horrible idea, though.

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5 thoughts on “Bad Cooking”

  1. But you’re talking about bad Spanish restaurants. I haven’t had nearly so much trouble finding good ones — ? — although you have to avoid the bad, like here [it is harder to find bad food in France, there seems to be some threshhold of goodness they have all agreed to uphold, but there is so much great Spanish food anyway]

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  2. A couple of years ago a French colleague was ragging on the Spanish for exactly the opposite reason: Such great ingredients and they don’t do nearly enough with them! They just serve them…. plain! They are not gourmands! This colleague was especially offended by a salad in Barcelona IIRC…

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  3. “In cooking, there are two roads you can take.”

    Nah, there’s a third road. If you think cooking is a necessary but tolerable daily pain in the ass, like combing your hair and shaving, you can simplify the process.

    Simply put a thawed pork chop on the George Foreman grill and let it cook for either 8 minutes and thirty seconds for a three-quarter-inch thick cut, or 9 minutes for a one-inch cut. (Yes, it’s that critical for a tender, non-overcooked chop. G.F. grilling times are very specific.)

    Put 10 large slices of Omaha Steaks “Steak House Fries” (overpriced thick frozen French fries) on a baking pan in the oven and cook at 450 degrees for 21 minutes.

    Open a can of barbecued beans and put four tablespoons in a bowl topped with a slice of medium cheddar cheese, and microwave for exactly three minutes.

    For dessert, eat two spoonfuls of chilled “Aunt Nellie’s Sliced Beets” from the jar in the refrigerator.

    Voila! You’ve got a feast, with very little effort, and only three dishes to wash.

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