Over the past few weeks as I’ve been doing media and press for my book, On A Stick!, there’s one question that sometimes gets asked after the usual “why sticks?” People ask if I have any culinary or cooking background, to which I say “Are you kidding me? You think I’m masochistic enough to work in a kitchen?!?” Ok, I don’t really say that. I just answer that all my knowledge of cooking comes from a lifetime in the kitchen with family. My grandmother, my mother, my father, my chef friends, my farmer friends, you name it – if I can glean something from them I will.
Many lessons have been learned through trial and error which I suppose is a good way to learn. I’ve made many mistakes and continue to make many mistakes (you should have seen my Korean song pyeon I tried to make the other day, I don’t even wanna talk about it). I thought I’d begin a series of things I’ve learned along the way and subject you to some bad illustrations I painted. Sometimes you just have to step away from the camera and change things up a bit. Ladies and gentleman, I give you MattBites Kitchen Wisdom Volume 1.
Kitchen Thermometers Are Your Friends.
There was a time when I tried to wing everything. The result? Soggy fried foods, destroyed melted sugar gloop, burnt butter (which isn’t a bad thing exactly but you know what I’m saying). And since deep frying plays a big part of On A Stick!, it’s important to know your temperatures and know when you’re where you want to be. Kitchen thermometers help with this. And they also help with roasting and baking so that you know when things like turkey and chicken are ready. We keep a variety of them in the drawer next to the oven and I’m not picky. Yes, some work better than others but I wouldn’t dream of being without a few in our kitchen.
Don’t Cook In The Nude. Don’t Fry In The Nude, More Importantly.
My handlers and the team of mattbites advisors have advised that I remain silent on the experiences that led to #2 in this entry. Suffice it to say that frying and cooking in the nude is not recommended, no matter how tall or short you are. Trust me on this one.
One Good Sharp Knife Helps Tremendously.
When I visit friends who don’t cook or fess up that they don’t enjoy cooking I always ask them about their knives. Inevitably they’ll pull out a cheap $6.99 knife or something from the dollar store and say it’s their main prep knife. I’ll then do one of two things: buy them a very nice knife as a gift or tell them where to get one. You need the proper tools to be successful in the kitchen and a very good knife is the perfect place to start. You can skimp on other things in my opinion but you must begin with a good knife. It’s even more important than #1.
A Sandwich Made By Someone Else Will Always Taste Better Than One You Make For Yourself. Accept This.
You know what I’m talking about here. And I can’t figure out why and trust me, I’ve spent many sleepless nights thinking about it. But that doesn’t mean I won’t make a sandwich for myself when I’m home alone. In fact, ever since shooting The Encyclopedia Of Sandwiches I’ve learned to appreciate making them for myself. But it still doesn’t come close to having someone else do it. It just doesn’t.
Never Buy Premade Salad Dressings. There Are No Exceptions To This Rule.
You must pay taxes, death is certain, and bottled salad dressings are a waste of time and money. These are the absolutes of life. And at the risk of offending my fine friends in the food industry I really mean it when I say that there’s just no reason to ever buy a bottled salad dressing. EVER. Nope, convenience and lack of know-of is not an excuse. Because nothing comes close to putting a few simple ingredients in a jar, emulsifying them and seasoning it to your liking. And when you think about the costs involved you can’t help but skip the dressings aisle next time you’re at the supermarket. Keep a good olive oil on hand (not too strong), a few great mustards, some vinegars and herbs and spices and you’ll have salad dressing in about 45 seconds.
Okay folks, what about you? What have you learned to be your culinary truths in the kitchen? I would really love to know!