Sweetbreads are not candy, and other facts I learned along the way

Jenny Rosenstrach

I had the best party when I first moved to New York, straight out of college. I knew a guy who knew a guy who ran a restaurant consulting business, and that business paid people to eat out for free if they wrote confidential reviews of their meals. For someone with ambitious taste buds, but not quite the right salary, this was like winning the lottery. Every Friday night, I’d slide down Steve Madden slides, and catch my buddy (boyfriend then, husband now dew), and head to the designated restaurant, heading to the restroom stalls between courses so I can take notes on things like the amount of minutes it takes for a server to greet me.

The only problem? I didn’t know anything about food. I mean, I knew a little. But I was only 22 or 23, and I cringe when I think of some seasoned restaurateur pulling those reports. There was the time I expressed shock and dismay at how bitter broccoli was (cauliflower was fourth), and the time I was confused by the weird, chewy crust on the sugar snap pea garnish (edamame was unpeeled). Once, thinking I was the epitome of evolution, I asked the server for a glass of Rioja, pronounced “j” (as in Jenny). But this was so much better than the time I ordered a bagel dessert at an old school fancy French restaurant thinking it was a glazed pastry. “Do you… uh… know what those are?” Andy whispered about his menu, trying to play it cool. I ordered crab soup, and we laughed our butts off.

The learning curve was quite steep as I was cooking in my kitchen, poring over recipes in cookbooks that seemed to embody not only the kind of cook I wanted to be, but the life I wanted to live. But what was the chicken broth? Was it related to chicken broth? (Spoiler: They’re the same thing.) And if those Silver palate Women are geniuses, why would they tell me that decrease The sauce is right after i Add wine for that? How does that make sense? And I’m sure I’m not the only one who discovered that a 16-ounce bag of spinach was more than enough to serve four people – only then to serve Tablespoon of cooked spinach for each dinner guest. Why doesn’t anyone tell you these things?! I thought over and over again those days.

But when we learn how to cook – when we learn how to do anything – a blunder is inevitable, and not to look like your mother here is also the only way we get better. Plus, it would be very boring if we didn’t have these stories to tell. (I’ve had their takeout for years!) Of course, I’d like to hear from you.

Note 12 essential kitchen tools And 15 things I wish someone had told me when I first started cooking.

(Photo: I’m in Brooklyn, Dec 2001, pregnant with my first daughter, trying not to spoil the hummus and pita).

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