I've been on a slow boil every since The Washington Post reported that Kraft, Land O' Lakes and Betty Crocker are dumbing down recipes. It seems a lot of cooks are in a pinch and knead help.
I mention to the college kid that words like "sear" and "dredge" are being stricken from cookbooks and she says, "Good. I don't know what they mean."
"Hello, Kraft? Yes, I have your target audience standing in my kitchen."
I give her the look and say, "And how would you find out what these words mean?"
"Google? Or maybe ask you? So what is 'sear'?"
"The store next to Penney's."
She pauses and begins constructing a map of the mall in her mind. I quickly explain that I was just kidding and that sear is what my eyes are doing right now, quickly browning her with a high heat.
"Oh you mean 'sear,' like when you slap meat in a hot pan and set off the smoke alarm?"
Obviously, she's learned more than she let's on.
But let's not mince words. We are awash with cooking shows, cooking magazines, and cooking gadgets, but more and more people are al dente when it comes to following a simple recipe.
Stephen W. Sanger, General Mills CEO, likes to tell the story of a man upset about a fire that occurred when he greased the bottom of the pan the outside of the pan.
To clarify (and please use unsalted butter), many of today's cooks are Internet-savvy, but they don't know their shoulder from their rump when it comes to a roast.
As a result, wonderful words like sauté, braise, truss, fold and cream are disappearing. Instructions are reduced to basics like "add water and stir" (clockwise, counter-clockwise, it doesn't matter, just try to keep it in the bowl).
Some have hypothesized that this lack of culinary knowledge comes from fewer women in the home, but why dredge up that old debate?
Those arguments start to simmer and the next thing you know, the bacon grease is on fire, the flames from the flambé are licking the ceiling, and a lot of cooks have their feelings burned and hearts scalded. (Rub affected area with butter or hold directly under cold water.)
Many people would be batter off if they were more adept in the kitchen, but some of the terminology is so confusing it drains the joy of cooking.
Sometimes, in order to know what a thing is, you must first know what it isn't.
Julienne, for example, is not a fashion model. Cream is not a group from the '60s, glaze is not the look you get from too many hours of video games, flute is something other than an instrument in the woodwind section, and drizzle is not a light rain.
Yes, the Internet can define a word, locate a recipe and even show you a video clip of how to crimp a crust. But that's not the same as a real Rachael Ray wannabe standing next to you, explaining why the garlic burned, the spaghetti is mush and the chicken tastes like rubber.
A little one-on-one in the kitchen and pesto! we could be back to dredging, creaming and trussing in no time.
At least that's what I think. You think it over, too. Let it steep for a while. Marinate it.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just rouxful thinking.