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Feb 3, 2004 06:58 PM

I may be a great cook, but I refuse to...

  • l

- deep-fry (too messy and smelly)
- make puff pastry (too fiddly and time-consuming; store-bought is good enough)

How about you?

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  1. I refuse to french my racks of lamb. I let my fast and brilliant butcher handle the task.

    1. ...make my own sushi. It's not quite the same thing as following the recipe for some standard Italian dish. Besides, I lack the resources to have just-caught fish flown in from the coast.

      2 Replies
      1. re: anthea

        Amen! Creating sushi at home is harder than rocket science. The rice is never the right temperature/texture/flavor, the topping-to-rice ratio is never right, the shape is never right, the fish is never fresh enough, etc.

        1. re: L. Bergeron

          Definitely with you! Sushi is going out food!

      2. b

        I refuse to make turducken.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bobsyeruncle

          Yes there is something just foul about stuffing a fowl with a fowl with a fowl...

          1. re: Aimee

            Thats a fair statment!

          2. re: bobsyeruncle

            I did it this Christmas ... perfectly OK but not nearly wonderful enough to do again.

          3. ...scale, gut, bone, and whatever else you do to a fish. It may be more expensive, but I buy fish fillets.

            20 Replies
            1. re: Jennifer

              I'm with you! I love fish and eat it often, but I was forced to learn how to "dress" a fish at camp one summer and I swore I'd never do it again.

              I'll gladly pay the premium at a good fish market to select my whole, so-fresh-it-needs-to-be-slapped, fish and kindly ask my fishmonger to do all the yucky work for me. This is why I'm certain I could never be a professional chef (even if I did have the talent, which I don't) -- I couldn't handle the bloody stuff. I know at various fine cooking schools in France you have to learn how to dress your own rabbit -- yes, you get it with the fur on. And all kinds of poultry comes to you with the head and feet on, etc. I'm all for eating this kind of whole, fresh, local food (it does taste the best, supports local farmers, and is more likely to be sustainable), but I'll leave the gross-out stuff to the professionals.

              Which is also why I'll never make try demi-glace myself. I will buy marrow bones and shanks and stock bones (all chopped up by that wonderful service person -- the professional butcher!) and make a good long-cooked beef stock, but I'll never be able to make the true demi-glace at home myself. Far too much yuckiness involved for me :)

              1. re: Mrs. Smith

                Mrs. Smith, I had to chuckle at your post.

                When I went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales, we took a meat-cutting course. There were people complaining of how gross it was to break down whole chickens into parts. These were whole chickens like you buy in the store, mind you--no heads, no feet, guts aleady gone, with the exception of the useable ones, mind you. Folks just had to disjoint the critters and practice deboning and that sort of thing.

                I had to laugh. My grandparents had a farm, see, and I know from gross. Butchering chickens is the single worst chore I ever took part in at the farm. The smell is awful, the plucking nasty, the innards awful and you do so many at a time--ugh. So, there I was surrounded by all these kids complaining about how gross these bloodless little headless and footless plucked chickens were, laughing my rear end off. When asked what I was laughing at, I explained, in full detail what gross really was.

                Another farm boy (his parents owned a turkey farm), got in on the act, and between the two of us we had cowed the rest of the class into silence.

                After that, folks were pretty grateful when the dressed carcasses of several veal calves and lambs came in and we had to take them down to primal cuts and then on from there, up to and including making sausage.

                In the next class, we were learning storeroom procedures and the school had gotten a fresh catch of sea bass, and they were still alive. The chef asked for volunteers to help clean and dress them, so of course, the two farm kids volunteered, because we already knew how to dress out fish. So we got to help teach the other students how to dress fish.

                The only ones I felt much sympathy for were the vegetarians--they were game to learn--they knew they had to learn to cook meat, but they got pretty green looking around the mouth, and one girl had trouble eating lunch later. I felt really bad for her.

                I will say this--the first few are always the worst. After that, it isn't so bad.

                1. re: BarbaraF

                  I often buy whole chickens to cut up as the price of cut-up chickens can be exorbitant. Every year near Christmas, my husband and I buy a turkey or two from a nearby cooperative. As these are 30-lb monsters, and I don't cook family Christmas dinners, I take the raw turkey, and cut it up into portion sizes I can use for cooking later. It then is wrapped and goes into the freezer. Same principle as the chickens, just a LOT bigger.

                  This year a friend of mine bought one as well. Although I had warned her, she was shocked when she saw the size of it. She asked me what she was going to do with it. I asked what she meant, and she said her family would never go through the whole thing. I stared, realizing she thought she had to cook the whole thing at once. I then told her to just cut it up. "How?" she asked.

                  I was stunned.

                  1. re: Colleen

                    I teach culinary arts both privately and publicly, and one of the lessons most requested by private students is how to cut up whole chickens. Believe it or not, lots of folks don't know how to do it!

                    I never got as fast at it as some of the chefs I know, some of whom have competed in such things, but I can break down chickens pretty quickly and cleanly. A pair of strong hands and a good knife are all that is needed, as well as a bit of knowledge of anatomy.

                    I use my hands a great deal, simply breaking the joints, then using the knife to cut the flesh and skin. All it takes is a bit of feel, and knowing where to apply pressure and how much of it to use, to pop the leg, thigh and wing joints easily.

                    A few years back, I had taught several private students in the span of a week how to cut apart chickens. For practice, we worked on, oh, I don't know, probably twenty chickens. (They brought their own chickens and took the parts with them. Some folks left me the backs and necks, so I put on a huge pot of stock while I was at it.) Anyway, around the end of the week, my husband had been complaining of his foot hurting, so later, I was rubbing it. My mind wandered, and I found my fingers probing the joints of his big toe--on auto-pilot, my fingers were finding the point at which with a quick pop and a twist, I could disjoint it!

                    Well, I dropped his foot, and had momentary shudder, then laughed at myself. I realized that my hands were strong enough to likely break someone's toes and fingers.

                    I, who do not get nauseous at taking apart animal carcasses for eating, got quite queasy thinking about how easily my hands could be turned to hurting a living being. It bothered me for quite some time, actually.

                    1. re: BarbaraF

                      I taught my husband how to do this, but he's never really gotten the "feel" for finding and popping the joints.

                      Your story was definitely scary--I certainly would have been disturbed if it happened to me. I've found that the hands of cooks/chefs and of masseuses are incredibly strong. They could do a lot of damage if they chose.

                      I taught myself how to joint chickens and how to fillet fish. I'm not very fast, but it gets done. I think I figured out how to do jointing and boning from my biology classes. I did a lot of dissections (not of humans, though--fetal pig was as far as we got). I also learned to cut meat in anatomy class. We were shown how to use (and sharpen) our scalpels, and were taught that slicing in one direction as opposed to sawing back and forth made a cleaner and neater cut.

                      I'm just surprised at how little people understand about where their food comes from.

                      1. re: Colleen

                        "I'm just surprised at how little people understand about where their food comes from."

                        Why are you surprised? It is an absolute (and somewhat unfortunate) fact of our day and age for most of us.

                        I am a perfect example. I love to eat meat---all kinds of meat. On the other hand, I consider myself to be an "animal-lover"---you know, watching Discovery, flashing my Greenpeace card.

                        I've grown up in cities all my life. I am used to my pork, chicken, beef, seafood, etc. coming in shiny packages under neat, neon-lit rows. No blood, no gutting, no mess. It's just "meat", rather than "living thing". Yet I've no doubt that seeing live animals slaughtered and prepared for my consumption would be disturbing and repellent.

                        This is basically an indefensible position, but it's a hypocrisy that I abide by in my daily life. I'm sure I speak for quite a few people.

                        1. re: Eric Archer

                          At Thanksgiving a few years back, I went to my husband's cousin's house. Her entire family has worked or works in the food industry. One brother is a meat cutter, one is a caterer, she herself is a well-known hostess in her circle of friends, and their mother used to own a restaurant. And then, there I am, a culinary intstructor.

                          The lady I was seated next to is a friend of the family, whom I had met several times over the years. A very nice lady, but, well, neurotic. She always regaled dinner guests with her latest neurosis, and this year, it was the fact that seeing meat that looked like it came from a living creature disturbed her and made her nauseous.

                          Now, I am a guest, so I did not indulge in my usual answer, which is simple: if it bugs you to think that you are eating the remains of what was once a living creature, don't eat it. Become a vegetarian. You can do it, there are lots of tasty things to eat as a vegetarian, and if you pay attention, you will get adequate nutrition. You might even be healthier. But don't sit at the Thanksgiving table and eye the platter of turkey with the drumstick that is turned toward you, shudder and roll your eyes and opine about how it bugs you while you are eating a bite of turkey breast that has been carved down into slices that did indeed come from a living thing, but don't any longer have the shape of living tissue.

                          So, I kept my mouth shut, but my husband said later that I had the look on my face that was eloquent in its impatience.

                          Across from us sat the hostess's mother, a dear older woman who has a wicked sense of humor. She leaned forward and said with a crooked smile, "Oh, the reason it bothers you is because you are used to buying plastic wrapped meat bits in the store and don't have to think about where it came from. I remember when I was a girl, my mother used to buy live chickens at the market. She taught me how to pick a good one, and then we'd carry it home, and if the weather was good, she'd take it outside to kill it. We had a stump she used as a chopping block. If the weather was bad, the killing and butchering was done in our basement."

                          She went on to describe in intimate detail how this process was managed, with helpful bits thrown in by her meatcutter and caterer sons, all the while the three of them smiling pleasantly.

                          The lady next to me squeaked a few times, but she did finish her dinner. She didn't ask for seconds on the turkey, though.

                          To my mind, it does not honor our bodies or the gift that the animals we eat give us by ignoring where our food comes from. At my grandmother's house, when we said grace, we often thanked the specific animal we were eating from that day, along with God. It was our way to remember that what we ate joined with us forever.

                          I don't think it is either physically or spiritually healthy to be so far removed from the source of our food.

                          1. re: BarbaraF

                            about twenty years ago, i was staying on my cousin's farm in norway during moose hunting season. severy few days, his wife and i come come back to the house from shopping to find a carcass lying in the driveway. the men would cut the carcass into large, rough chunks and put them into containers the size of a recycling buckets, and karin and i would cut and trim the meat into managable sizes, then freeze it.

                            i always said that if that experience didn't turn me into a vegetarian, nothing would

                            1. re: lynn

                              I've experienced the same thing in Northern and central-Northern Qu├ębec.

                            2. re: BarbaraF

                              I worked with this woman who looked like a Norman Rockwell grandmother. Inevitably, on business trips after dinner someone would start going into what they did at previous jobs. We work in the medical devices industry and she had worked in the veterinary side for a while. At any rate here is this women who looks like your idealized grandmother telling stories about swine insemination, mainly about how they collected it and how to enter these facilities you had to go through stricter measures then to enter our clean room manufacturing facility. Damn funny stories, but not ones for the faint of heart.

                              1. re: muD

                                I met a woman who was h-o-t hot and knew it. Guys were always trying to hit on her. They would ask what she did, and she would answer, quite truthfully, with a little smile:

                                "I make high-precision, instant-read, digital rectal thermometers for cattle."

                                That usually shut 'em up for a minute.

                                1. re: snackish

                                  And then there would be a stampede?

                            3. re: Eric Archer

                              I guess you're right, I shouldn't be surprised. It's the way food production and society have gone. Our food has become more and more processed for our convenience and as a result we become more and more removed from our food.

                              I'm not saying we all have to go out and hunt our dinner. I'd probably go hungry if I tried to do that--as Eric Nicol (writer) once said, "There are no animals and few plants too slow and stupid to outwit me." I also agree that gutting is a messy, smelly job, as are skinning and plucking. I've done those very rarely.

                              I'm just surprised by people that don't understand [as an example] that gelatin comes from animal bones, or that find cutting up a gutted, plucked, cleaned, chicken carcass "gross." How is that gross compared to handling the cut-up pieces? Where do they think the chicken pieces they buy come from? I had someone get upset when I explained to her that the apples we eat in spring are generally apples that have been in cold storage since last fall. She thought they were "fresh grown." [?] Or going with my husband for the first time to a farmer's market. He thought there was something wrong with the apples because they weren't shiny, and with the tomatoes because they were too red.

                              I often tease a friend of mine--she doesn't know where food comes from and doesn't want to know--that she thinks chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

                              1. re: Colleen

                                My husband hated apples when I met him.

                                Actually, he barely ate a damned thing when I met him, but we are talking about apples, now.

                                This year, since we live near the largest apple orchard in Ohio, I took to buying fresh apples in season right at the orchard. They grow, oh, nearly twenty varieties of apples, plus cherries, peaches, pears and plums. The first apples I bought were MacIntoshes. I would eat one or two of them a day, and finally, he smelled one and said, "Can I taste it?"

                                He loved it. He took to eating two or three a day. Then, he started eating other varieties. He really liked the Winesaps and the Pink Lady, and he got to where he could tell which batch of cider had more of what variety in it by flavor.

                                All of this from someone who once hated apples. Why did he hate them? Because he grew up in Florida, and had been raised eating Red Delicious, which is certainly red, and smells good, but is neither delicious and has the texture of mushy sand.

                                He now is fully in the camp of eating locally grown, seasonal produce bought from the grower or grown oneself if possible. He has seen the light.

                                1. re: BarbaraF

                                  Red Delicious apples--an abomination upon the earth. I grew up in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, and while I lived there we rarely bought fruits or vegetables in the supermarket.

                                  My husband was the same as yours when I met him. In his case, he was a prairie boy--all fruits and vegetables were brought in underripe and expensive. He used to eat little of either.

                                  He rarely ate fish, and hated meatloaf, apple pie, and apple crisp. I finally coaxed him to try them all, and he loved them.

                                  I finally said, "Have you ever considered that your mother was a rotten cook?"

                                  1. re: BarbaraF
                                    RWCFoodie (Karen)

                                    Sounds like my husband but his "I hate them" was tomatoes! He had never had a good "garden" or Farmer's Market tomato until I introduced him to them. What a revelation; he now loves them and looks forward to tomato season the way I always have...

                          2. re: BarbaraF

                            In college, I was the typical liberal arts student, but I consistently amazed my wife-to-be (biologist/scientific illustrator) how well I knew basic anatomy, to the point where I could help HER. The light went on when she saw me boning a chicken, which I'd done THOUSANDS of times in the restaurant. Yes, cutting up twenty chickens (or more) every night really taught me how bipeds are built.

                            1. re: BarbaraF

                              This is a little off-topic but one of the funniest real stories I ever heard concerned a couple of guys who wanted to butcher a whole turkey themselves. City boys with that how-hard-can-it-be attitude. They read up on it and after they dispatched it they knew they had to dunk it in scalding water, so they filled up the bathtub with hot water (as in down the hall). They dunked the turkey for the recommended time and then decided it would be best to two-man-pick-up and run it like mad down the hall and outside to commence plucking. So they picked it up, shook it off over the tub, and started running down the hall to the outside. Meanwhile a six or seven year old that lived there was going to his room, he thought, rounded the corner from the kitchen to the hall, and to his surprise, got body-slammed by a dead, hot, sopping wet turkey.

                          3. re: Jennifer

                            I used to always buy fillets too. Then one day I got the right knife and with a little practice it takes no time to fillet a fish, and I find that it tastes much better, fresher, when you filet and cook right away.

                          4. ...make another apple pie. EVER. Whoever coined the phrase "easy as pie" was a complete idiot. Also, making a decent loaf of French bread, or sourdough, or Limpa, is best left to the pros. That's why God made bakeries, no?

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: peg

                              Regarding apple pie: Make a tarte Tatin instead. Not only is it just delicious (more so, in fact, in my opinion, because of the heavy caramelization factor), but it's much easier than making a pie. And everyone will think you're oh-so-sophisticated, just because you've made something with a fancy-ass French name.

                              -- Paul

                              1. re: Paul Lukas

                                ....much easier indeed. I think one has a much greater degree of control over the taste, too, in that the base is comprised of a nice, buttery applesauce, which you get to TASTE before the sliced apples go on top. With a pie, you don't if it's awful til you cut it. Bah!

                                PS a nice peach crisp beats them both!

                              2. re: peg

                                Make artichoke bottoms as a fancy-schmansy container for something else. Way too much effort for too little reward. I now make artichokes only for myself so I can let the butter drip down my arm and make as much of a mess as I please.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Brazen little me. I have served artichokes at dinner parties and taken back the bottoms for use in pasta or for stuffing with crab as the next course.

                                  1. re: scottso
                                    Head Gazelle

                                    Do you mean you served whole artichokes, and your guests ate the leaves, but not the bottoms?

                                    I think that's the best part. How did you keep people from eating the bottoms? Tell them "No next course if you eat the whole thing?"

                                    1. re: Head Gazelle

                                      Artichoke leaves are an old family favorite. My mother used to make a dipping sauce of mayonnaise, sour cream, and lemon juice. When we get to the heart we rip out the choke and divvy it up. Lovely.

                                2. re: peg

                                  Have you ever made Julia Child's thin apple tart? Much easier than pie with a lovely subtle flavor. If you are willing to make and easy tart shell you get a similiar effect. I make it when I am too lazy to make buy.

                                  1. re: peg

                                    God may have made the bakeries, but somebody closed all the real ones. Finding someone who uses a natural leaven and a brick oven is not possible in most places.

                                    1. re: muD

                                      I dunno...I don't have much problem finding good bread here. But in a city as big as Chicago, one should be able to find decent bread (or at least better than what I can produce, which ain't sayin' much!).

                                    2. re: peg

                                      But making apple pie is easy! I find them less trouble to make than cakes.

                                      1. re: peg

                                        I'm no pro, but I find French bread and sourdough easy. But then, I watched my mother make bread from when I was a toddler and started making my own when I was a teenager. These days, I no longer use commercial yeast. All the bread I make is from wild yeast, aka sourdough but without the sour.

                                        1. re: peg

                                          I could be wrong, but I think the original term was "easy as eating pie" and somehow it got shortened.

                                          1. re: Michelly

                                            Wow, I never knew that. It makes sense now. Thanks for that tidbit.