Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cooking Order

I like to cook.  Usually, it is not under pressure, so I'm free to do things at my own pace, except for those frantic moments when meat needs turned and pasta needs drained (and I forgot to get out the colander).  I'm a fan of my routine, for efficiency and a balance of work, fun, and rest.  So.  Here's the order of things I generally follow:

First, I decide what to eat.  Sometimes this happens in a moment, and I make one of my standard recipes.  Other times it is a result of a sale at the store that day or the day before.  On some occasions, I've been planning for weeks, researching recipes, collecting ingredients.

When I'm ready to cook, the first thing I do is get out my equipment.  This involves pans, pots, mixers, cutting boards, knives, and stirring spoons.  I get any of the appliances plugged in, turned on, or preheating.

If there are any supplies I'm not sure I have on hand, I check at this point.  I also check to make sure the things I planned to use aren't spoiled.  If any of this involves digging through the fridge, I pull out anything else that seems old or spoiled, to be dealt with later.  When I don't have enough of the ingredients, I either think of a substitute, or turn everything back off while I go to the store, or decide something different entirely to eat.

I start the longer-to-cook, or more hands-off items at this point.  Rice and pasta, for example, can be started, cook for a while, and can even sit for a while cooling if sauce is going to be poured over them. The sauce, if it is straight off the stove, will reheat them.

People who know me know that I multitask.  It is actually kind of hard for only one task or subject to fully engage my brain.  So.  In this moment while my hands are free, I turn on music, put up my hair, tell a funny story, or turn on a TV show.

This next part is where to insert a recipe.  I finish cooking: do the steps, taste, innovate.  As time allows, I alternate stirring and stuff with putting away the ingredients I'm done with.

Once the food is made, I put the dish together.  You know: veggies on the plate next to the meat, butter the roll, dispense sauces, fill a glass, grab a fork.

Then I turn everything off, and finish putting away ingredients.  This is especially useful if any of them ought to be refrigerated.


I usually rinse my dish when I'm done with it, and leave it in the sink soaking if applicable.  When there are kids involved at the meal, usually their parents are taking care of dismissing them from the table, getting ready to leave or play or go to bed.  I've found that, being the single person, it is useful if I help finish the next several steps while parents are occupied.  This especially works in evenings.  After they take care of kids and I take care of the kitchen, we can spend relaxed time together.  As kids get older, I've observed it works pretty well to have them involved in the clean-up, even if they weren't part of the preparation.  That way everyone is ready to move on to the next activity together.

After that, I put away all the leftovers.

Once the dishes and work area are cleaned, I'm free!

To God be all glory.

Monday, May 02, 2016

By and Large

One afternoon, years ago, I was watching an old Cary Grant movie.  His name was Noah.  People kept saying it.  I listened, and it kept striking me as such an odd name.  No-uh?  What is that name?  (Sometimes my brain doesn't work right.)  After an hour or so, it struck me that Noah is not only one of the most famous men in history (he built an ark), but also the name of one of my cousins.

But, you know, sometimes things just strike you in a way they never have before, and they feel all new and mysterious.  That's part of what I love about etymology: discovering hidden depths in words and phrases I've known all my life.  The latest phrase to catch my fancy was "by and large", spoken innocently in a radio interview, and arousing my curiosity.

Of course I know what it means.  I perfectly understood the man on the radio.  We use it to mean "generally" or "in most cases".  But while I could get kind of a picture of either "by" or "large" used for that sense - we do use "largely" to mean almost the same thing - I couldn't see why they were together.  To the internet!

Online, I discovered a most interesting history for the phrase.  A more vivid rendering of this metaphor would be "against and with the wind, still able to move forward".  The idiom is a sailing term, from the fact that, by shifting the angles of your (triangular) sails to almost-parallel (by) and then your (square-rigged) sails almost-perpendicular (large) to the wind, a ship can progress even when the wind is blowing opposite of the direction they want to go.  According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, "By the early 1700s the term had been broadened to mean 'in one direction and another,' whence its present meaning of 'in general.' "  

This is not a very technical description of the 17th-century nautical techniques, but it is beautiful.  When I hear "large" in this context now, I picture a big sheet puffed full with a breeze.  And "by" makes me think of a hand to a rudder or wheel, playing a dance with the wind to keep it just barely pushing them forward, maybe a bit off course, but soon to be balanced by a little shift a bit to the other side of straight.  

To God be all glory.