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Marks of a bad cook


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Another mark of a bad cook is one who cannot identify the most basic of fruits and vegetables.

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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From the bulk of the comments, it seems to me the beef is with people who are intellectually incurious.

To me that isn't the merely the mark of a bad cook. It is the mark of a bad person. Or at least it's the mark of someone I don't want to be stuck with for more than 20 minutes.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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One of the nice things about the new nonstick pans is that you can use metal utensils in them. Of course, Michelin starred restaurants, full of bad cooks, have been using metal spatulas in teflon for, well, ever. To me bad cooks make bland food. I'm not going to call somebody bad for doing something I wouldn't do, as long as the results are tasty. In the end, the results are what matter.

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Generalizations make baby Jesus cry.

^Mostly this. But I do have one generalization: people who don't enjoy cooking generally aren't much good at it.

Sorry - I hate to cook, and I am really good at it.

I learned how to cook as a gift to my husband, who likes to eat.

Cooks Illustrated was a huge help to me in starting out - gotta love their scientific approach - but I can now improvise with the best of you.

I read eGullet for tips to apply to this process.

And because you are all so amusing!

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Industrial size bottles of ketchup and steak sauce. Generally a sign that the taste Needs to be covered up!

Or that, like at my house, you have a three year old who loves ketchup.

Misa

Sweet Misa

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Sawing through vegetables instead of slicing or chopping is a big tipoff for me.

That implies they have fresh vegetables. I know more than a few people who would never dream of serving a vegetable that doesn't come from a can or the freezer. My husband grew up in such a household; he told me once that he hadn't realized until his mid-20s that one could go to a grocery store, buy fresh vegetables, take them home, cook them up, and eat them.

And even after learning that, the first time I brought home a winter squash and cooked it, he told me he thought that grocery stores sold squashes as decorations, not food.

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The way someone talks about food or cooking gives a good idea of whether they have enough interest and discernment to cook well. Of course, that doesn't eliminate the armchair gourmand who can't boil water.

The tell-tale kitchen signs have been enumerated above (antique spices, dull knives, flimsy pans, etc...).

Another giveaway is the person who volunteers for a potluck his "to die for" Kahlua brownies, which turn out to be better suited to paving a patio than actually eating.

Looking for the next delicious new taste...
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From the bulk of the comments, it seems to me the beef is with people who are intellectually incurious.

To me that isn't the merely the mark of a bad cook. It is the mark of a bad person. Or at least it's the mark of someone I don't want to be stuck with for more than 20 minutes.

Or, they just have interests in different areas. Not everyone is jazzed up by the same things. Maybe they're into customizing Italian sportscars and laugh behind your back at your Ford Taurus.

Click this for a good laugh

---Guy

Edited by pennbrew (log)
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I wonder if there's anything that's a similar sign of a bad cook. I won't reflexively condemn convenience foods, but perhaps too many Kraft products might be a hint of a problem....or Miracle Whip perhaps.

I don't know... I do most of this "bad" stuff. And most folks I know consider me to be a pretty good cook.

In the fridge there is Miracle Whip, Duke's Mayo (the very best store-bought brand, by the way), and two varieties of my homemade mayo. Miracle Whip has just the right amount of tang for several of our favorite recipes, including an Apple Tuna Toss that features walnuts, mandarin oranges and chopped lettuce in addition to the tuna and apples, and the dressing is soy sauce, lemon juice and MW, and I've never had anyone turn up their nose at it.

There's always instant coffee in the pantry. That's because sometimes we run out of the home-roasted variety that I keep in the freezer and grind right before brewing, and I really want some coffee and that instant will do for one morning. Or maybe I'm not completely out of the home-roasted, but don't have much left, and a little instant strengthens the weak brew. Instant coffee sure beats getting a headache around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Also, I've got quite a few dessert recipes that I sprinkle a bit of instant coffee over (don't use the freeze-dried kind for this), including a "Bourbon Cup" or a "Jamaica Cup" wherein you put a dollop of (our home-made vanilla) ice cream into a brandy glass, pour over a spoonful or two of bourbon, or Jamaican rum (or coffee liqueur or other favorite liqueur), and then sprinkle with the instant coffee. Or sprinkle some over flan, or chocolate pots of creme. In fact, those of you that are turning up your noses at instant coffee should go buy yourself some. The uses for it are endless.

There are both the green and yellow plastic squeeze bottles in the fridge door. Daughter likes to squeeze just a touch into her ice water. She could squeeze the juice from the two dozen or so de-zested lemons that are currently in the freezer, having given up their flavorful yellow skins for my limoncello, but that would take a whole lemon that I would rather be using for something else. Just a quick squeeze from that plastic lemon suits her fine for her water, or an occasional glass of iced sun-tea that she then garnishes with a few sprigs of one of the four varieties of fresh mint from the garden.

My very expensive knives are in my special drawer so that (sorry) nobody else in the large extended family (daughter, her husband, their three children) with whom I live can use them. Of course, I slip them into the same sleeves they came in before I tuck them away in that drawer.

Way too many spices, many of which are dusty and old, because I have a bad habit of buying new all the time, rather than using up old ones first, and then I'm hesitant to toss the old ones, worrying that they might still be "good" and would be a safety net should I run out of the new ones I just bought last week.

We do have an "array of commercial bottled salad dressings" in the door of the fridge. Along with several jars of home-made. So shoot me. My son-in-law often marinates stuff that he's going to grill outside in various types of dressings, and since he drags in from work around 6:30 pm, would rather just grab a jar of something, instead of searching the pantry for all the right ingredients for the perfect marinade to brush over the steaks or shrimp or chicken or salmon. And the three year-old likes to dip her carrot sticks into Ranch Dressing, and we're thrilled she's eating carrot sticks at all, and I don't feel like talking her into sticking her carrot sticks into my Stilton dressing.

I do have a Rachael Ray cookbook. And I've cooked from it, too. In fact, I'm making the pasta e fagioli from that book tomorrow night. Even though I'll use Rancho Gordo cannellini beans instead of the canned ones it calls for, the recipe is still easy and (relatively) quick and my family loves it.

So by y'all's standards, I'm a pretty rotten cook.

Luckily, my cooking suits my family - and me - just fine.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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And that's why generalizations and judgments don't usually make for convincing arguments.

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Generalizations and judgments don't just make for convincing arguments, there's usually not that much else that an argument can be made of (what would we use if not generalizations and judgments? I suppose facts, but there just aren't that many of them out there to supply us with all the arguments we might want to make). Bad generalizations and judgments are just that: bad, useless, and unconvincing. But can we not say that there are signs of good/bad cooks that are actually good generalizations? I think we can. For instance, I said that not seasoning properly (within parameters that would please most people) is a pretty sure sign of a bad cook. That's a generalization, but I also think it's true. It's going to result in bland food and represents a lack of the fundamentals of a good cook. That bad food makes a bad cook.

But I agree about seeing bottle dressings/sauces, or miracle whip, or what someone might call poor knives, etc: That doesn't make a bad cook, because cooking is about the food.

Maybe we should be talking about marks of bad food, or maybe marks of a good cook. All this talk of badness is no good.

nunc est bibendum...

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Every time this topic has caught my eye, I've noticed I felt fleetingly uneasy, so I decided to figure out why.

I think it's this: Most of the 'signs' that have been mentioned (including my own previously-noted nothing but nuke-and-eat food to be seen) are likely to make for a poor meal, or a poorer meal than could be created with better ingredients/equipment, but I think I'd still hesitate to conclude that the person is a poor cook; he or she might just be (at least temporarily) poor, period.

I know plenty of people who are competent to excellent cooks, who (particularly as students), resorted at least on occasion to the most appalling food, just to put something, anything in their stomachs (instant mash made with hot water from the tap, ketchup sandwiches, giant boxes of cheap breakfast cereal... whatever gave the most food mass/cash unit), and during these lean times, about all you'd find in their kitchens would be some sort of crap instant thing, and a bunch of aging condiments, spices, and herbs for which they'd have no use for quite a while, but cannot bring themselves to throw out, since they figure things will get better eventually.

So, like I said, I think these may well be red flags about an upcoming meal, but may not say much about the cook .

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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And that's why generalizations and judgments don't usually make for convincing arguments.

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Generalizations and judgments don't just make for convincing arguments, there's usually not that much else that an argument can be made of (what would we use if not generalizations and judgments? I suppose facts, but there just aren't that many of them out there to supply us with all the arguments we might want to make). Bad generalizations and judgments are just that: bad, useless, and unconvincing. But can we not say that there are signs of good/bad cooks that are actually good generalizations? I think we can. For instance, I said that not seasoning properly (within parameters that would please most people) is a pretty sure sign of a bad cook. That's a generalization, but I also think it's true. It's going to result in bland food and represents a lack of the fundamentals of a good cook. That bad food makes a bad cook.

But I agree about seeing bottle dressings/sauces, or miracle whip, or what someone might call poor knives, etc: That doesn't make a bad cook, because cooking is about the food.

Maybe we should be talking about marks of bad food, or maybe marks of a good cook. All this talk of badness is no good.

Can you not say the same thing when it comes to marks of a good cook? It's really subjective, because one person's good cook is another person's average.

If you were to take all of the responses so far in this thread, I come out looking really shitty. I do use a steak knife for vegetable prep regularly -- I do use my larger knives for things that a steak knife can't adequately handle, like hacking open a Hubbard squash or cantaloupe. I use the steak knife because it's a small kitchen, I have a small surface area to work with and I find that I can get the job done much faster using a smaller implement.

My knife skills suck eggs. I vaguely know how to tourne, and what paysanne, batonnet, julienne and brunoise refer to ... but I'm not cooking for Gramercy Tavern and so, see little need to emulate that kind of skill set.

I can count on one hand the number of pots I have: a nonstick skillet, a saucepot with a nonstick interior surface, a Le Creuset Dutch oven, a 6 quart stockpot and a small stainless steel saucepot. Not counting my two Pyrex baking dishes, cookie sheet and roasting pan. I don't have a microwave because I think those kinds of appliances are useless. Gee, I'm not only bad but I'm cheap too! Who knew?

My fridge is getting nearly bare. I have to find a way to use up things bought from two weeks ago. Tonight will be sugar snap peas and zucchini with Indian spices (the spices won't be top notch because they're not fresh, the zucchini's kind of tired looking the last time I checked and the cilantro is wilted but not yet past the point of no return), followed by ricotta gnocchi with tomato confit and green garlic. The veg hasn't developed sentient life, so perhaps I'm not that bad, huh?

On the other hand, I've been known to still use Mrs. Dash when the mood strikes me. :blink: Some things don't change.

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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It struck me today as I was working at the Botanic Garden that a concept I use with gardening applies, for me, to cooking. If you do not call yourself a gardener, but you occasionally attempt to brighten things up with some plants; plants that often look sad or wither away, then I do not consider you a "bad gardener". You just do not have the knowledge, skill, or interest. I consider you "bad" when you hold yourself out as knowledgeable and engage in practices that are on the line of horrid and do not have a "gardening heart".

Similarly with cooking, I only consider you "bad" if you do the latter. If your food sucks and you just are not at all cooking savvy then I think more in terms of "not a good cook". A hairline distinction perhaps, but to me it is worlds apart in terms of judgment. As an example, my mother-in-law was a degreed dietician, taught doctors about nutrition, and supervised the kitchen as to dietary needs in a respected hospital. The food she put on the family table was bland, boring, and not well prepared - not due to any nutrition issues like low fat or the like. She knew it. She loved my cooking and enjoyed good food, but she just did not care to become a good cook. I think I added years to her life and spiked her good mental health when I took over cooking at gatherings.

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And that's why generalizations and judgments don't usually make for convincing arguments.

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Generalizations and judgments don't just make for convincing arguments, there's usually not that much else that an argument can be made of (what would we use if not generalizations and judgments? I suppose facts, but there just aren't that many of them out there to supply us with all the arguments we might want to make). Bad generalizations and judgments are just that: bad, useless, and unconvincing. But can we not say that there are signs of good/bad cooks that are actually good generalizations? I think we can. For instance, I said that not seasoning properly (within parameters that would please most people) is a pretty sure sign of a bad cook. That's a generalization, but I also think it's true. It's going to result in bland food and represents a lack of the fundamentals of a good cook. That bad food makes a bad cook.

But I agree about seeing bottle dressings/sauces, or miracle whip, or what someone might call poor knives, etc: That doesn't make a bad cook, because cooking is about the food.

Maybe we should be talking about marks of bad food, or maybe marks of a good cook. All this talk of badness is no good.

Can you not say the same thing when it comes to marks of a good cook? It's really subjective, because one person's good cook is another person's average.

If you were to take all of the responses so far in this thread, I come out looking really shitty. I do use a steak knife for vegetable prep regularly -- I do use my larger knives for things that a steak knife can't adequately handle, like hacking open a Hubbard squash or cantaloupe. I use the steak knife because it's a small kitchen, I have a small surface area to work with and I find that I can get the job done much faster using a smaller implement.

My knife skills suck eggs. I vaguely know how to tourne, and what paysanne, batonnet, julienne and brunoise refer to ... but I'm not cooking for Gramercy Tavern and so, see little need to emulate that kind of skill set.

I can count on one hand the number of pots I have: a nonstick skillet, a saucepot with a nonstick interior surface, a Le Creuset Dutch oven, a 6 quart stockpot and a small stainless steel saucepot. Not counting my two Pyrex baking dishes, cookie sheet and roasting pan. I don't have a microwave because I think those kinds of appliances are useless. Gee, I'm not only bad but I'm cheap too! Who knew?

My fridge is getting nearly bare. I have to find a way to use up things bought from two weeks ago. Tonight will be sugar snap peas and zucchini with Indian spices (the spices won't be top notch because they're not fresh, the zucchini's kind of tired looking the last time I checked and the cilantro is wilted but not yet past the point of no return), followed by ricotta gnocchi with tomato confit and green garlic. The veg hasn't developed sentient life, so perhaps I'm not that bad, huh?

On the other hand, I've been known to still use Mrs. Dash when the mood strikes me. :blink: Some things don't change.

I think most of the things said in this topic aren't really good marks of a bad cook. I think the inability to season is though, and I think you can generalize pretty well off of that. It's hard to come up with good generalizations, but that doesn't mean we can't say there are good cooks and bad ones. Otherwise we end up in everything-is-relative land where nothing is as it seems.

Using equipment as a guide amounts to nothing. And about the steakknife thing: I don't know about anybody else, but if I'm over a friend's house cooking and they don't cook a lot, the first thing I'm looking for is something (anything!) serrated: at least it won't be duller than a doorknob. And yeah: stock cubes, Mrs. Dash, seasoning salts, packages of soup to make dip--these things do have their uses (I can make a really delicious French onion dip with only onions, sour cream, herbs de provence, butter, and salt: in the end, it tastes a bit better than the powder from a pouch, but not by that much really).

nunc est bibendum...

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It struck me today as I was working at the Botanic Garden that a concept I use with gardening applies, for me, to cooking. If you do not call yourself a gardener, but you occasionally attempt to brighten things up with some plants; plants that often look sad or wither away, then I do not consider you a "bad gardener". You just do not have the knowledge, skill, or interest. I consider you "bad" when you hold yourself out as knowledgeable and engage in practices that are on the line of horrid and do not have a "gardening heart".

Similarly with cooking, I only consider you "bad" if you do the latter. If your food sucks and you just are not at all cooking savvy then I think more in terms of "not a good cook". A hairline distinction perhaps, but to me it is worlds apart in terms of judgment. As an example, my mother-in-law was a degreed dietician, taught doctors about nutrition, and supervised the kitchen as to dietary needs in a respected hospital. The food she put on the family table was bland, boring, and not well prepared - not due to any nutrition issues like low fat or the like. She knew it. She loved my cooking and enjoyed good food, but she just did not care to become a good cook. I think I added years to her life and spiked her good mental health when I took over cooking at gatherings.

I like this. I've had lots of bad meals cooked by friends, from scratch and with (mostly) the right equipment. Were they bad in the sense that they could have been much more delicious? Sure. Were they good because the person was trying to make something good, even going beyond their comfort zone to do so, with the result being a gesture more important than the taste of a meal? Absolutely. Some people just don't have it in them, and don't care to, even if they like to eat. Now the ones that claim to be god's gift to the kitchen and still suck: they suck. But I don't really know too many of them (just lucky I guess).

nunc est bibendum...

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As a result of reading this thread, I cleaned my stove and range hood. I mean really cleaned them, I even changed the filter in the hood.. Tomorrow, I'm going to do the kitchen floor, and on Sunday I'll take down the 51 mugs hanging on pegs on the fascia above my wall cabinets and run them through the dishwasher. I realize this won't make me a better cook, but at least I'll be a more hygienic one.

:smile:

"A fool", he said, "would have swallowed it". Samuel Johnson

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For me, the usual kitchen indicator of a not good cook is a lack of evidence of cooking. Ie, their kitchen looks as though it isn't used for much cooking. People who don't cook much are rarely good at it. If the person is a professional cook/chef, obviously the state of the home kitchen is meaningless - they cook at work. For everyone else...

Signs that a kitchen isn't used for cooking much include:

1) Way too immaculate - shiny high end cookware with nary a stain, scratch, or nick. Same for appliances, counters, or cabinets, unless they just moved in or redid the kitchen.

2) Not much in the kitchen, either foodwise or toolwise.

3) Nothing out and/or handy. Ie they have things, but far from hand if one was actually cooking. For example, spices and seasonings far away in the pantry, pots and pans not at all close the the stove, bare counters like a model home, etc, etc.

Beyond the unused kitchen, there aren't many good visual signs. I know far too many good cooks with crappy and/or dull knives, lousy pots and pans, almost no spices at all, refrigerators full of bottled salad dressings, and what looked to be a years supply of canned soup.

Edited by Mark Muller (log)
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no salt

rancid oil

glass cutting board

but even these people know how to bbq

Funny, I think good BBQ is one of the hardest things to get right for a cook. I've had FAR more bad barbeque than good. And I think there are a lot more people who think they know how to barbecue than those who actually can.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Maybe he's talking about grilling (vs the Southern USA meaning of BBQ)? I also think "real" BBQ is pretty easy to screw up, but there's only so much that can go wrong with steaks on the grill.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Industrial size bottles of ketchup and steak sauce. Generally a sign that the taste Needs to be covered up!

Yes, a generalization. I like the taste of ketchup, and I like having a big bottle of the stuff around. I make a kicked-up ketchup that goes on meatloaf, and I use it in Russian dressing, and sometimes I like a big dollop on scrambled eggs. I like it on my burgers (no mustard or mayo, thank you!) and I sometimes add it to beans. Ketchup is Kool!

 ... Shel


 

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