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People Watching You Cook

Is it just me? I don't like anyone to watch me cook, to see the dirty dishes, to see me have an "oh sh*t" moment, to wonder why I cut cubes versus coins versus julienne etc etc etc.

I just want to have my triumphant voila!

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  1. I love for my friends to watch me cook, but I have a friend who is a wonderful cook who feels exactly like you. When she visits me, she always wants to cook a meal, but she never wants anyone in the kitchen, and would really prefer that no one is even in the house when she cooks. And she absolutely hates for anyone to touch her food in even the slightest way. This can get complicated, because she is a smoker and I don't allow smoking inside my house. Once, she was outside smoking and I could smell that her roast chicken was done. So I committed the capital crime of taking it out of the oven to rest while she finished. She was absolutely furious and refused to do anything further with the dinner, because someone else had dared to mess with her cooking!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Kathleen M

      And you're still friends with her? Amazing.

      1. re: Kathleen M

        That would be a tough 'friend' for me to have....

        1. re: jeanmarieok

          Especially when it's in your own kitchen that she treats you that way. Wow.

        2. re: Kathleen M

          What a diva! In my younger days I would have put up with it; now: no way. Cooking is to be enjoyed and celebrated!

        3. I despise people watching me cook, except for a select group of individuals who know better than to annoy me and to stay out of my way in the kitchen (including my cousin and a couple of friends). There is no reason for people to be in the kitchen while I cook; it's generally distracting and rarely adds anything to the meal. Let me work my magic and we shall socialize over the finished product when it is done!

          11 Replies
          1. re: vorpal

            Are these the same group of individuals who gave you the Thai cookbooks? :-))

            btw....kudos to you for handling all the darts thrown your way, but seriously....you need to relax a liitle and enjoy the ride.

            1. re: fourunder

              I only LOL occasionally here but yours did it :)

              1. re: c oliver

                Jfood's with you...OMG how can this happen. Almost had chocolate shake all over the screen.

              2. re: fourunder

                LOL... I like to think I'm not as uptight in real life as my persona on CH would imply. I don't consider myself particularly easy-going per se, but I consider CH a harmless outlet for me to get into the spirit of things and express my stodgier side :-).

                That being said, I can't lie; I do dislike people hovering in the kitchen when I'm cooking for many reasons. For example, one ties into the other threads I've been commenting on tonight: I'm pretty easy going when it comes to kitchen hygiene and I don't want to stand around feeling judged based on that, especially given that some of my friends are pretty paranoid about that kind of thing.

                1. re: vorpal

                  Aha! So you're a finger-licker and a spoon-dipper as well as a cookbook ingrate ;)
                  ( Poor you, you'll never live THAT thread down. Hope that's not your real picture lest one of your buds ever stumbles across it. I kid... I actually enjoy your comments and perspective on things.) Back to topic,... small kitchen, slightly OCD, easily distracted by nearly anything. When entertaining, we try to have all the "cooking" parts done before peeps arrive, so we're basically just doing the final touches. In that case, don't mind folks in la cocina. adam

                  1. re: adamshoe

                    Exactly. Mainly because I start socializing (read that as having cocktails) and then forget things. I have bowls and platters all out, the table is completely set, bar (read that as a corner of the kitchen counter) is set up, etc.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Perhaps Vorpal is teflon coated? What's up with friends who know better than to annoy me? Does he throw knives or just burn their gift cookbooks?
                    I wished all my cooking were magic. Perhaps it's from those damn friends in my way...

                    1. re: Scargod

                      Keep reading below buddy. one only hopes his tedious friends who gave cookbooks do not come to CH.

                      1. re: Scargod

                        I prefer to light the cookbooks on fire and throw them at the intruders. It's actually quite effective at driving people out of the kitchen! A detailed statistical analysis of several experiments indicates that it is 74% more efficient than using knives alone, and 48% more efficient than simply lighting cookbooks on fire. If you have any other suggestions, I'm happy to hear them, too! (Although after the knife experiments, I may need some time to amass sufficient test subjects...)

                    2. re: vorpal

                      I'm with vorpal. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and stay out of my kitchen.

                    3. It doesn't bother me and I actually enjoy when someone appreciates my efforts and wants to learn a thing or two....be it knife skills, techniques, tricks or shortcuts.....a little helping hand also helps pass the time and sometimes actually makes me more efficient in the process.

                      1. I'm fine with friends watching me cook, except one who fancies himself a stellar cook. I have lived much of my adult life with a foreign oven that has either C or British gas marks, no measuring cups, and a copy of the Joy of Cooking. So, I'm pretty good at eyeballing things. And he always makes these comments, which I'm sure are meant in kindness, about how I just manage to toss things together. I'm not explaining this irksome situation properly, but it really gets my goat. I'm not 'just' tossing things together; it isn't good luck that makes it work out these nights when he is over for dinner. It is craft.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: relizabeth

                          My problem is sort of similar. I also try to prepare/cook stuff ahead of time when cooking for others. Generally, I don't mind someone entertaining me with good conversation from the doorway of my tiny kitchen (too tiny for two!). But my BFF (seriously, for 37 years), who loves my cooking, always questions/corrects what I'm doing to the extent that I end up snappish and calling her on it. Trust me, there's a reason I'm doing it that way! Then she's embarassed. And the cycle starts again...

                        2. I generally prepare anything ahead of time that I can. The rest is when everyone arrives and we're all hanging out in the kitchen, drinking (!!)and snacking. Nao problemo.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: c oliver

                            Me too. Time-consuming and easy to make ahead dishes are prepared and chilled or at room temp. Only last minute stuff is left and we all join in - fun.

                          2. I don't want anybody in the kitchen when I'm cooking! For one thing, it's about the size of a large matchbox. For another thing, I don't multi-task! I can't cook and talk at the same time. Drives me nuts when people cram themselves into the kitchen to chatter at me while I'm trying to get a meal on the table. I suppose it's OK if they look on from afar, but gawd-- get the #@%! out of my kitchen. Guess I'd make a terrible food network host.

                            1. Only when things get fraught or frantic do I shoo people out of the kitchen, since it's kinda small and under those conditions anyone who can't read my mind WILL be in the way a lot. Aside from that, I could hardly care less, and generally appreciate the company. There are however only two or three people with whom I can comfortably collaborate in cooking, none of whom I am related to by blood or marriage.

                              1. I prefer to be along in the kitchen for a couple of reasons. I find it peaceful and meditative to quietly slice vegetables, stir risotto, etc. And unless I'm doing something that requires very little thought, I'm likely to screw something up if I'm distracted by conversation. The result is a sub-par meal flavored with resentment, which is not desirable on any level.

                                1. Don't mind at all. Even fun showing off now and then. And its just cooking.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    I don't mind either,Sam. As long as I know what I'm doing. Just no smoking, please!

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      I actually like having people in the kitchen when I cook. Unfortunately, it is always the visitor with the worst knife skills who wants to help me prep, and I think my knives are bigger and sharper than what most of my guests are used to. I find it hard to relax watching them nearly take off a finger while being incapable of cutting things into uniform sizes. So, I try to give them a safe but necessary job -- like cutting the French bread on the kitchen table. When I do sense competence -- what a nice feeling to have a real helper!

                                      1. re: RGC1982

                                        Hear, hear! Those guests who insist on assisting but lack kitchen skill can be quite tedious if you're in a rush, as I find by the time I've answered all their questions and demonstrated how I want the task I assigned to them accomplished, I could have easily done it myself with time to spare.

                                        If I'm not rushed, on the other hand, it can be an excellent teaching opportunity to share my knowledge of cooking with someone who is probably genuinely interested. I have a friend who, a year ago, couldn't make anything more than microwaveable mac and cheese now cooking fairly elaborate Italian and Thai dishes thanks to the kindness of friends and family who were patient enough to help him nurture his interest in cooking when it arose.

                                        1. re: vorpal

                                          Yes, we had a guest who professed to be a really good cook. I asked him to "toast" the pine nuts. When I looked, he was "frying" them in olive oil!

                                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        I don't mind it as well. Usually I get comments like, it's like watching a cooking show, blah, blah, blah.

                                        The only thing I have a problem with is for the guest to see what's going into their food. Somethings are needed like butter and cream and the fat phobic get sqeemish at the sight. Oh they do like the end result. But for some it's like watching an animal get butchered. Like the steaks but don't like the way it got there.

                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                          Ah, you struck a chord with me there! We will dry-age a rib roast all week in the fridge. That sucker is practically black when it's ready to cook. We make VERY SURE guests don't see THAT. As you say, they like the result but we don't want them to think we're trying to kill them.

                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                            This is very much my issue too. Sometimes I feel like I have to sneak things into a dish and hide other things. It usually has to do with duck or bacon fat. And similar to C Oliver, I'm a big fan salting and air chilling meat in the fridge before cooking. Or leaving things on the counter in a brine or marinade b/c it's faster that way (1 or 2 hours vs 12 in the fridge). But some guests will just see non-refrigeration and bacteria. Back in the day, I used to keep the after-dinner cheese sitting out beforehand, kind of concealed so some helpful person wouldn't stick it in the fridge . . . or another be too nervous to eat it. One of these people extolled the virtues of room-temp cheese to me yrs later after having it in a chi chi restaurant. Hey! thanks for that good info!!! All of these things MUST be okay if they're done in restaurants or tv. :-)

                                            1. re: cinnamon girl

                                              Not exactly on topic, but every time I take a chocolate cake for dessert to someone's house I invariably get asked if it should go into the fridge. No one seems to know that chocolate cake (and a lot of other cakes) has to be served at room temperature. People automatically assume spoilage.

                                              1. re: souschef

                                                I have had the same thing happen. The food safety police have had a huge impact on home cooks. (And not only should the cake not be refrigerated, if it is by chance it's never the same evenwhen restored to room temperature.)

                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                  Completely agree. The fridge just permanently wrecks (and often dries out) cake. The same with pastry - some you can revive in the oven, but not all. Desserts were another thing I felt I had to tuck away with people in the kitchen for this reason.

                                        2. I only mind because my DH has a charming habit of always being JUST where I need to be. ie: standing in front of the drawer containing the whisk... moving to stand in front of the stove/sink/whatever I am moving to next. I don't know how he manages it! ;-)

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: jujuthomas

                                            OMG, our husbands are related. I've asked/accused him if that was the only way he could get his (indifferent) mother's attention. We have a peninsula in the kitchen with nice padded stools where he could sit and be out of the way, but noooooo that happens once in a blue moon. Ooohhh, I feel better just knowing that another person feels my pain :)

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              LOL! Thank Goodness I'm not alone! :-D
                                              When we redo our kitchen I am SO putting in a bar area with stools! But he will probably still stand right in my way.

                                            2. re: jujuthomas

                                              Hahahaha! EXACT same thing here! He's got a knack to find the one place that will maximize just how much he's in the way. I figure it's a sign of a good marriage if he understands me and my warped brain that well :-).

                                            3. I don't mind if they know what their way around a kitchen, then it's fun: but I have one (nameless) person who doesn't know the first thing about cooking and keeps asking stupid questions, like she's in a beginner's classroom, and keeps asking what she can do to help. She asks 5 or 6 times, even though I don't have anything because it's just finishing touches. "What can I do to help?" "What can I do to help?" And acts highly insulted that I have nothing for her, however the reason she's eating at our house is because my husband refuses to go to her house and eat her terrible food.....God I feel better, I thought I was the only one, being a selfish cook. And it's really only her, because her kitchen etiquette is weird and obnoxious. But ditto on the drinking, talking and socializing, I have to have everything just about ready beforehand, I want to have fun too!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: coll

                                                I'm sorry to be contrary, but if her cooking is so bad and she's asking you questions and trying to help, maybe she's trying to learn something. Maybe instead of being annoyed you could take it as an opportunity to show her a thing or two?

                                                1. re: Kagey

                                                  I wish that were true. I love collaborating with people that enjoy food. I married into her family almost 40 years ago and although her mother and grandmother were world class cooks, and I learned half of what I know from them way back then, she didn't inherit that gene. Not one iota. Which makes it a double shame. But the rest of the family cook unbelievably, and they haven't been able to teach her anything either. It would take more than answering questions. It would take caring about serving edible food. Who brings a burnt, dried out pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving when it is the only dessert? (She made Mrs Smiths but still couldn't figure the timing) Who brings a cake that she dropped at home and it's a blob of creamy gunk for a birthday cake for her brother (I made it into a trifle at least, why couldn't she?) Who serves steak that her butcher told her was porterhouse and it was obviously chuck blade (he must have seen her coming) and you couldn't even cut with a knife? And grilled burnt on one side and raw on the other because she just put it on and went inside (by the time I noticed it was too late). Who has a catered party and still none of the food is tempting (weirdest assortment of foods that I guess she though was trendy, like a full tray of just plain green beans, and another of penne that had just a few sundried tomatoes mixed in, and was as dry as hell)? She will just never get it: I did try really hard for about twenty years or so, showed her more than a thing or two, actually love doing that but finally gave up. Her thing is more external impressions. Hey we're not all Chowhounds. She just asks because that's what women are supposed to do in her mind (her mom's kitchen was a well oiled machine). Hope that sort of explains it and I also hope she never finds this website! PS Shouldn't let her help clean up either, because she always breaks something expensive and then the next day I have to wash every single thing over again anyway. I usually let her do that though to make her feel good.
                                                  I'm not totally heartless.

                                              2. It doesn't bother me... I hate being shut away in the kitchen by myself like some kind of serf, which is why I would NEVER buy a house or condo that didn't have an open-plan living area. They're the best arrangement because you can talk to people and go about your business without your guests underfood (the actual kitchen area in our apartment is only big enough for one... but it faces directly into the livingroom.)

                                                1. My kitchen is the center of my entertainment area, and if I can't find a cooking job for you, there are always dishes to be washed! i don't mind people watching me cook. I do all of the heavy lifting before my guests arrive, but usually leave something for us to assemble as a group. Potstickers, bruscetta, whatever - it makes that awkward 'there are only 3 other people' time much easier.

                                                  1. This is such a pet peeve of mine. I ascribe it to not having a mother or sisters, so cooking was always a solitary comfort activity for me. I recognize it as a quirk and tolerate it when a friend lingers in the kitchen. It's worse when a friend expects to cook in your kitchen as well. One thanksgiving, a friend arrived early. Her contribution was to be turnips, which i love but have never cooked (how the heck do you peel those things?). Anyway, she arrived with a bag of raw turnips. It drove me batty (inside). I tried to get her to start them while I took the dog to be boarded for the day (here is everything you need for the turnips) and she did not take the hint. She had lthree sisters growing up and was used to multiple cooks in the kitchen. This same friend arrived at another friend's home for a superbowl party with a package of uncooked chicken wings and theirs was a tiny manhattan kitchen.

                                                    1. I love having people in the kitchen with me while I cook. It's good company, and sometimes nice to have another set of hands who will grate cheese or shell shrimp for me.

                                                      That said, I prefer them to allow some space in the conversation to allow me to think about what I'm doing. If they go non-stop, I don't have enough mental space to keep all my ducks in a row.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: thinks too much

                                                        Hmmmm... interesting. I think it depends on what you cook. See, for me, I make mostly Thai food, where the prep work is all done in advance (usually well before my guests arrive) and then all I have to do is cook... and the cooking pace is frenetic, so there's no room for someone to help me, and no time to engage in conversation (I'm a terrible multitasker, though). That's a large part of the reason that people are banished from my kitchen :-).

                                                        The worst is when you're trying to read a recipe (fortunately most of my recipes are my own and in my head, but there are exceptions) and people are nattering away. I can't focus at all and I may as well have read a comic book for the amount I retained ;-).

                                                        1. re: vorpal

                                                          Vorpal, you got it right. It depends. If it's a slow paced meal, friends, drinks and conversation are great. (Scargod and I cooperated and jointly put out a Mexican feast in his kitchen last August and had a great time. We took all afternoon and lubricated the prep w/ fine single malt Scotches.) On the other hand, however, if I have a lot of frying to do, I like to be left alone. The lay out of our small kitchen and my Bullish demenor, make me afraid that I will burn someone else badly (I've seen this once.) and it
                                                          makes me very uncomfortable.

                                                      2. I don't mind it in my own kitchen (usually just a small family gathering of 4), as long as they're not nattering on aimlessly about anything and everything (usually my mother). I can chop and chat at the same time, but there are times I just need a "hold on a minute; let me figure this out/combine these ingredients/pour this into this pan/stir this and add the last bit of cream to get it just right" moment. So I'll just say "hold on a sec" and do what I need to do.

                                                        A friend and I work well together in his or another friend's kitchens when we're cooking for our dinner club dinners. I know where things are in his kitchen and he tasks me with what I need to do, so we work well together. Friends know to (mostly) leave us alone as he likes to concentrate and get things done right. But often his wife will be called in for dish duty or someone will pass through to grab another bottle of wine, and we can both break and chat if it's an easy enough time frame.

                                                        So for the most part, I usually don't mind it.

                                                        1. Wow, this is my pet peeve too. I just can't "chat and cook" at the same time! I usually have everything done before guests arrive for this very reason. I want to socialize instead of juggle conversations -while I remembering the order of things to prepare. If I do have to finish things up a bit while guests arrive, I put appy's and drinks in a room away from the kitchen and let them know I will just be a few minutes....

                                                          1. I realized I'm the same way.... AFTER I took out a wall and put in an island w/ bar stools to open up the kitchen

                                                            1. Watch (and keep the adult refreshments coming), yes. Help, no. Husband has inthewayitis too but I forgive him because he cleans up.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                that would make it so much easier to forgive! i tried to implement the I cook, you clean up rule when we first got together. It didn't take! he makes up for it in many other ways... but does not generally do dishes unless specifically asked.

                                                                1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                  It might not happen as quickly as I might like, but he gets around to it. Also does all the laundry and the heavy cleaning. I'm spoiled.

                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                    ooh. you are spoiled! mine frequently grills dinner, and does it VERY well, so I'm spoiled also. he's even made breakfast a few times out there, altho not recently. takes more time that we feel is worth it.

                                                                    1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                      He cooks too when I'm not able to, but it takes a lot to keep me out of the kitchen.

                                                                    2. re: buttertart

                                                                      Me too. I do the laundry, but he does the cleaning and pays the bills in addition to the dishes. (I do empty the dishwasher.) Don't care about the speed, as long as the knives are washed and dried promptly. The only things he cooks are pancakes. I'm spoiled and consider myself very lucky!

                                                                  2. re: buttertart

                                                                    You two have to be one of the cutest couples on Chowhound. I love your hubby stories. :)

                                                                    1. re: cimui

                                                                      Thanks! We are very lucky in so many ways.

                                                                  3. I don't mind people in the kitchen and I don't mind them talking to me, but stay out of my way, and please don't ask me "What are you going to do with that?". Dammit, just watch me !!

                                                                    1. In my previous house, the entryway to the kitchen was also directly in the middle of my workspace. You had to cross the doorway to get from the sink to the stove. While I absolutely love talking to people while I'm not in crunch time, that layout made for some traffic problems.

                                                                      In my current place, I'm in the middle of the kitchen redo, so I don't entertain at all. But when it's done, there's a nice long expanse of counter AND an island with stools all completely out of the way of the fridge, sink and stove. It should prove to be a perfect arrangement for chatter while I'm working.

                                                                      Now if I could only get the sweet, adorable kitty not to stand RIGHT behind me every time I turn my back! She doesn't like people food, but has still be begging for it constantly for 16 years. I'm still petrified I'm going to step on her some day!

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                        dmd, that's part of her JOB to stand in the way. <vbg> And if you do step on her (I've done it with both of mine), you get a WRRRROOOOWWWW!, she'll run away, she'll pout and ignore you.....and when you pull out the cat food, she'll come running back. :-)

                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                          Just tonight, I smooshed her little paw a tiny bit. It IS her job -- and she takes it seriously!!!

                                                                        2. re: dmd_kc

                                                                          Yes, dmd, the kitchen lay out is crucial. Stay out of my triangle and everything is fine. The cat rarely comes in while I cook and the dog stays just over the thresh hold to the dining room (a well trained pooch). My wife is a dear. Always offers to help, helps gladly, keeps my glass filled, intuits what needs to be done and doesn't mind retiring to the living room to put her feet up and read until the meal is ready. She does clean up (finds doing the dishes relaxing?) and I put my feet up after the meal.
                                                                          My brother and his wife were house guests for the past 2 weeks and we had a wonderful time. While camping, we team cooked and in our home they deferred to me and were very helpful. One time I was getting angry at myself cooking a downeast breakfast. The fish cakes were too runny and so were the beans and the fish cakes were sticking to the cast iron griddle. Who wants company when the meal is going badly? Yhey assuaged my peevishness w/ wonderful compliments and a very hearty appetites. I'm my most severe critic.

                                                                          1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                            You'd think kitties would learn not to hover just behind feet in the kitchen after having their tails or paws stepped on a few times. Unfortunately, they don't... their surprised / pained yowls have taught them nothing; however, they were not entirely in vain as they taught me to be acutely aware of the presence of any kitties in the vicinity (I have three, and they've all been stepped on about twice, and it's truly a horribly upsetting experience for both them and me - although I get the added burden of guilt).

                                                                            1. re: vorpal

                                                                              I think our cat, Big Guy, has. He'll scoot around the kitchen looking for scraps, but after being stepped on a few times, stays away from the stove area; but one better not leave uncovered meat or fish on the counter! We walk the dog twice a day behind the house through the woods, and Big Guy comes w/ us and heals like a dog, while the dog, a Lab, runs amock, nose to the ground. Whit our kids grown, it's like a new family.

                                                                            2. re: dmd_kc

                                                                              Don't any of you have talking kitties (great pic, btw, dmd_kc)? :) Mine makes a little announcement to let us know she's walking by in the kitchen *just in case* we're not paying attention. It's the cutest little sound. I think she's met up with one of our feet one too many times and has gotten wise to letting her presence be known vocally, if not visually.

                                                                              As far as people watching me cook, I don't have a big kitchen, so space is limited. The concept doesn't bother me, but not having room to move is an issue.

                                                                              At holiday time, my uncle (who owned a restaurant) would eventually have just about enough of all of us congregating in his home kitchen. It wasn't tiny, but it was by no means a large space, either...and eventually, we'd hear something along the lines of, "EVERYBODY GET THE HELL OUTTA MY KITCHEN!" Ahhhhh, those were the days, Uncle Al.

                                                                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                Oh, mine talk. But it's just to make clear that they're HIGHLY upset that their gourmet repast has not yet been put on the floor in their crystal bowls when *they* think it should be there. ;-) But I do like that your kitty has wised up and announces her presence. Quite helpful. Mine usually just sit there waiting for something to drop, although only one of them usually eats what's been dropped: cheese - she LOVES cheese! - chicken, bits 'o beef, even peas (buttered ones are especially favored). The other sniffs or licks at it, but rarely eats it. And is not fast enough if he wants to eat it, as the Queen usually hoovers hers and his up before he even has a chance at it. :-)

                                                                            3. Generally, I can't stand having observers and talkers while I cook. I enter into a sort of personal trance state when I cook, and disturbing it blows any cool I might have had.

                                                                              I even find it difficult to give instructions to willing helpers. I can do it, but it's like stepping outside of my trance to deal with side issues.

                                                                              I'm really good at multitasking and staging the various parts of meal preparation. Alone.

                                                                              I think I could do collaborative cooking, with competent associates who know their tasks but who would have to work in silence.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Anonimo

                                                                                I completely agree with this. It gets especially worse when I'm rushing to add all the final touches and someone is standing there always in my way or asking me questions.

                                                                                However, I don't mind people helping peeling, grating, or stirring stuff, cause it's really hard to mess that up, and I don't have to direct them on what to do.

                                                                              2. I almost always have an audience when I cook. I like people to chat with while I am cooking and since people flock to the kitchen, they would see me cook anyway.

                                                                                1. I'm fine with it in general. We have a large kitchen with an eating area on the other side of the counter from the stove/prep area so when we have small dinner parties people will hang out there and that's fine so long as they understand that I might drop out of the conversation on occasion when I need to focus on some painstaking or time-critical task.

                                                                                  The only time I don't like it is when I'm cooking for a real crowd, like the extended family sit-down Thanksgiving dinners for 40 or so that we do every few years. On those occasions I get swarmed by well-meaning cousins and aunts asking how they can help and my stock answer is, you can help by shooing everyone out of the kitchen, including yourself!

                                                                                  1. Ah, I hear you about the triumphant voila. Unfortunately, I don't make anything that voila worthy most of the time, but when I do -- like something that involves pyrotechnics -- I want everybody out, too.

                                                                                    The rest of the time, since the kitchen is attached to a space we use as a dining room and sitting area, when we have company, I love to have people around in the sitting area / dining room so I can participate in whatever nutty debate we're having at the time. I can't say that I greatly love having people directly underfoot since I move so fast and am such a klutz that I'm prone to collisions.

                                                                                    When we don't have company, I like to have my SO around so we can have our glass of wine and discuss our days and he can taste for me the things I can't taste (like pasta) or provide a second opinion on whether something's overspiced or undersalted. The SO is also handy to have around for what we call "tall person assistance". And both the SO and the dog are often helpful spectators, since they are good at being first round dishwashers (a.k.a. bowl lickers).

                                                                                    I don't mind screwing up in front of others. I guess it happens so often I'm completely used to it and just convert (or rename) the screwup into something else. :)

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: cimui

                                                                                      Wow, cimui, you are good! I identify w/ the "I move so fast and am such a klutz" statement. I am really afraid about hurting someone.
                                                                                      Good night moon.

                                                                                        1. re: cimui

                                                                                          That's scary as shit! All those exposed knives... and I bet if you pulled wrong the whole thing would topple over.

                                                                                          1. re: Scargod

                                                                                            Seriously! Other versions I've seen have had clear plastic sleeves in the back to cover the blades, so toppling the little dude is, at least, less likely to result in life mirroring art.

                                                                                      1. re: cimui

                                                                                        You remind me that SO and I do a similar thing. When I start to cook or prep, she joins me in the kitchen. She seldom helps unless we are doing a meal for more than two. She and I talk while I work or she reads to me. I am often feeding her and the dog tidbits or an amuse bouche.

                                                                                        1. re: Scargod

                                                                                          It is lovely, right? Kitchen time is one of our most bonding rituals, I think. (Of course we don't get out much. ;)

                                                                                      2. i never have guests, only friends. the rule here is "if you're being treated like a guest, something is very wrong"

                                                                                        that said, i like having company when i cook, but i rarely like to have anyone help, even with the most menial of tasks.

                                                                                        1. The only time I get aggravated is when I cook with a friend who messes up every thing in the kitchen. Who has to do everything so properly. I'm apt to chop a hard-boiled egg in my palm, or grate an onion directly into the hamburger meat, or chop an onion directly into the skillet. For instance, once she mixes a dough and gets it ready for rising, she'll use a different bowl for the rising. I wipe out the first one (maybe) and use it again. It's just aggravating to constantly wash everything then have two or three dishwasher loads after dinner. People need to lighten up! (in my humble opinion).

                                                                                          1. I hate to say it, but... My wife is of the same bent. I am persona non grata in the kitchen while she cooks. (Very well btw, but insistent on solitude). If minor baking is involved, then I can be there and under certain circumstances be actually in charge (of baking that is). So I must say I can understand the preference you have.

                                                                                            1. Sure, come on it! I'm used to it-everyone flocks to the kitchen.
                                                                                              I get a little frantic if you start tasting stuff with yer fingers (go wash up-I know where mine have been!) or drip water/oil/whatever on my floor (makes the kitchen dance kinda slidey and dangerous) so I give people a chore if I see that happening- it works well.

                                                                                              1. I am happy to know I am not the only one who doesn't like observers. I've always wanted an alley style kitchen with a locking door. I have never been comfortable in performing for others.

                                                                                                1. I love it when people watch me cook! They can ask questions, I answer them or we throw ideas back and forth, and sometimes they even help me prep ingredients quickly or aid in tying/skewering something, which is great. If they get in the way though, move it!!

                                                                                                  1. People hang around in my kitchen, and there's room, so I'm happy for them to be around while I'm cooking.

                                                                                                    But there is another side to this question: the observer who can't help but be a backseat cook. He doesn't like that you salt your pasta water or that you use the "wrong" knife for the prep. And he won't keep quiet about it. She insists on adding salt to your pot or taking your cake out of the oven because she just knows better. Don't we all know this person? Many of us probably are this person! I used to have slight tendencies in that direction, but later realized that it's infinitely better to let the cook do what he wants unless I'm asked for an opinion.

                                                                                                    1. I don't feel this way, at all. I clean up the kitchen beforehand so that there are plenty of knives, measuring cups, etc. for at least two people. Several times I have taught my SO's twentyish children how to do things properly; like how to hold and use a knife, cut an onion, make rice or prep things.
                                                                                                      I have a great time cooking with my brothers and my sister and two different Chowhounds have been in my kitchen and we have had a fabulous time and I have learned from them. As Sam said, "It's only coking". So, someone makes a mistake or does it differently from you? There's no one right way to cut, season, cook or plate food. Ask or watch any chef.
                                                                                                      Now, I don't want a loose cannon in the kitchen, but usually you have some idea what's going to happen before you say "yes" to help. It is your kitchen and safety is very important so heavy drinkers should stay out and normal safety rules should apply in a kitchen. An example is that unless well coordinated and it's someone you are familiar with I would not allow too many people in a small kitchen. How many folks know to holler loudly, "hot stuff coming through"?

                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                        Oh, people yell that all the time when I'm walking through the kitchen. ;)

                                                                                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                          It was YOU yelling it as you shook that pork butt!

                                                                                                          1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                            Weren't you the one in a restauantat that when another table asked the waiter if they have a big rack, responded I do!?

                                                                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                              Specifically, I was walking by a table in a BBQ place as the waitress was serving racks of ribs. One of the guys at the table said, "Nice rack!" (not to me, of course) but I couldn't resist saying, "Thank you!" The punch line was, my then boyfriend told me when I got back to the table, "Nice going, they work at ______ (our workplace)."

                                                                                                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                                That's surely part of why he's "then" not "now." No sense of humor. Good riddance.

                                                                                                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                                  No, surely not to you! Didn't you get the baby backs?

                                                                                                          2. It does depend on the circumstances. When I am cooking for the family or a pair of close friends have come over for a casual dinner, I don't mind people in the kitchen, indeed, I enjoy their presence.

                                                                                                            But when I am cooking for a formal dinner or there's a party, I hate to have people follow me to the kitchen. The quantity and depth of cooking is more intense and the kitchen will be a mess and I didn't invite people over to have them see a dirty kitchen littered with used pots and pans and sauces splattered on the stove and flour dusting the floor. Besides I have a nice dining room and living room that cries out for people to use it.

                                                                                                            I do try to organise my dinners so that most of the food is prepared ahead of time and my presence in the kitchen will be minimal, but at certain meals, particularly holiday dinners, it's next to impossible for me not to spend hours in the kitchen attending to all the last minute details. That's when I will break down and allow a close friend to follow me behind the green baize door.

                                                                                                            1. Kitchen voyeurs don’t bother me, I don’t mind it at all…just stay out of my way and no one will get hurt! And don’t back-seat-cook me…

                                                                                                              “Did you salt the water?”
                                                                                                              “How much of this did you use?”
                                                                                                              “Don’t put any of that in there, I don’t like it.”

                                                                                                              I’m guilty of this myself on only one count. I will turn down the flame under a pan, when it begins to smoke and the food is charring and oil is splattering all over the place. Sorry, but careless cooks keep me on my feet.

                                                                                                              The dog so wants to be part of the action, so I position her bed across the room where she can see and be seen (and is too far away to lunge for happy accidents!).

                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: cuccubear

                                                                                                                My yellow lab is not a cook or back seat driver. She does want to be a taster. Her thing is engineering. She helps me whenever I make stuff. She again does more QC than anything. I can never get her to help no matter how much she watches. She really picks up on stuff; she just seldom applies it.

                                                                                                                1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                  I've never understood the expression "works like a dog." Never had one of those :) They're more along the lines of "I'm design, you're implementation."

                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                    Yo, back off. I'm a registered therapy dog and proud of it and work like a dog.

                                                                                                                    And I always help jfood cook and especially clean up. "Clean up on AIsle 1" means i run like the dickens to the front of the stove, "Clean up on Aisle 2" I run to in front of the ovens and "Clean Up on Aisle 3" means someone drops some goodies off the table.

                                                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                      Right on! When Miss LBJ goes out she works her ass off following scents and making sure the trail ahead is safe! At the end of a hike her tongue, and mine, is hanging out.
                                                                                                                      I think she would have made a good truffle dog had I trained her properly (or trained myself about truffles) earlier. Talk about earning your keep!

                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                        In our house, 'BARKUUUM" gets all dogs quickly cleaning up whatever has hit the floor.

                                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                          LOL! my sister calls her dogs hoover and oreck for just this reason! and with 4 kids, there are plenty of things to clean up. :)

                                                                                                                      2. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                        Well if I don't set her bed out my speckled white chihuahua is liable to get squashed under foot. She's excellent at cleaning the floor, just like good ol' jfood, and she's even been known to lick the grease splatters off the floor around the stove. What a silly girl!

                                                                                                                    2. Only in the last few years have I made birthday cakes for my kids - I used to get them from an excellent local bakery...

                                                                                                                      Because on my daughter's first birthday I decided I was making the cake... well anyone with a one year old knows that the best laid plans... are just theory - anyway ffwd to party day and I'm trying to ice the cake WHILE guests arrive. One well meaning more curious than anything guest watches me finish piping an edge, the icing is too cold and so it's hard to push out of the bag and she is staring, I mean staring at every move I make and then says "You missed a spot" I looked up, said thank you, fixed it and finished the job - when really I was thinking leeeeave me aaalone damnit! and what I wanted to do was bop her over the head with said piping bag.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: maplesugar

                                                                                                                        One well-aimed, forcefull squirt in the face would have gotten the point across! LOL

                                                                                                                        1. re: cuccubear

                                                                                                                          The thought had crossed my mind hehehe. That was 7 years ago now, and the friend who was helping me in the kitchen at the time still talks about it - I shot her a look after the starer had gone to pick out a goldfish. (Elmo party, I gave away "Dorothy" complete with small fish bowl and fish food in lieu of treat bags that year).

                                                                                                                      2. It's kinda annoying, not cause I get embarrassed of anything but wtf why are you just standing there?! Unless they're planning to learn something it's really pointless for them to just look at me.

                                                                                                                        But the worst thing is when they half-assedly "help" like they ask if they could do anything and when you say help me grate this or something they're like running away.

                                                                                                                        1. With a husband and three kids, two of whom will be out of my kitchen before I can blink (17 & 18yo's - hopefully not the 12yo and husband!), I am used to having people in the kitchen and can't imagine being in there alone! I also tend to actually retreat there when I'm feeling insecure - having new people over, for instance - because it's my safe place, and I know I'm at my most relaxed and best.

                                                                                                                          I do NOT like to cook in other people's kitchens, though. I hate the feeling of not having
                                                                                                                          'my' knife, or what I consider the "right" equipment, or having to ask because I don't know where things are kept. So if I ask if I can help, it's generally lip service - I'm hoping you'll say 'oh, no, I'm almost done here." Sorry.

                                                                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                            This made me think about why I am so comfortable with people in my kitchen and why I welcome them in and make use of those that want to help: It's how I grew up. A mother with five kids. Me, #2, cooking at 9. A mother with two sisters and their families. When we all got together at the grandparents it was a zoo. There was usually all three daughters helping my Grandma.

                                                                                                                            1. re: shanagain

                                                                                                                              I was also thinking along Scargod's lines, and I agree, but from the reverse perspective: my mom would often chase people out of her kitchen while she was cooking. I wonder if that's part of my inspiration for doing the same (albeit much less forcefully than she).

                                                                                                                              I, too, do not generally care for cooking in other people's kitchens. It is frustrating, particularly when speed is of the essence as in stir frying, to realize you're missing a cooking implement and having no idea where it might be. Trying to exact this information from the host can be difficult, too, as they may be engaged in socializing and I do not want to be rude and interrupt, even though in some cases it is an emergency. Also, I've found that many people have very strong opinions as to how things should be done in their kitchen, which becomes even more evident when you're cooking in their home. For example, I like to merrily mess up my kitchen beyond recognition while cooking without restraints: I don't want to worry about tidiness while I'm engrossed in a dizzying, frantic Thai food stir-frying extravaganza. My aunt, on the other hand, *must* have her kitchen as clean as possible and insists on constant and vigilant cleaning while you go. (This is feasible and may even work well with certain styles of cooking, but I posit that it is not possible with Thai cookery.) LOL - last time I cooked there, I would finally manage to locate the pan I needed for a particular dish, for example, and place it on the counter in preparation. When I'd turn to get it, it had vanished, having been thoroughly washed and put away and leaving me short on time trying to find it once more! I won't cook there any more :-).

                                                                                                                              1. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                                I've cooked in a big restaurant in Thailand. You wouldn't be welcome there. Stir frying messes don't go well with a lot of cooks in a busy kitchen. And there is a lot more than stir frying going on in such kitchens.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                  You're probably right. I doubt I'm suited to cook in a busy kitchen period, be it in Thailand or elsewhere. That being said, I still enjoy cooking immensely and find it very rewarding as a solitary activity. (I'm also aware that Thai cooking comprises much more than just stir-frying. I'm just saying that stir-frying is an activity where time is of the essence.)

                                                                                                                                2. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                                  Fixing food, like Thai (which I do well myself), or Chinese, means there's a lot of prep involved. I can't stand using other's inappropriate and dull knives. I know some bring their own, but that's a little insulting isn't it? What if I visit my sister in Tulsa? I'm not likely going to take knives there on the plane with me. I guess I could insult her by bringing my sharpening kit.

                                                                                                                                  Stir-frying is best done in a wok over high heat. Not many kitchens can provide that heat and a nicely seasoned wok.
                                                                                                                                  Style is very important. I can usually conform to someone else's cleanliness rules or methodology. When I work in my kitchen I only clean as needed as I go. I have a big sink.
                                                                                                                                  I wished I had a hole in the counter, as I like to push and flip trimmings off the cutting boards to the back of the counter. I clean that up later. Having lots of counter space is a luxury for many, I know. What a pain to cook in a tiny, sadly equipped kitchen. Still, I wouldn't say no if asked to help.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                                    Why don't you take knives on airplanes. Plenty of us do. See this thread from a while back:


                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                      In the checked inplease, correct?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                        Duh :) Of course, silly boy. When we did a house exchange on Cape Cod in June, I carried a chef's knife, microplane grater, maybeanother item or two.

                                                                                                                                        Bringing back four bottles of cachaca tomorrow - checked.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                          Just checking. Jfood does not want to see a thread from the highest poster last week, "They took away my knives", or "I missed my flight from Brazil because of my knives."

                                                                                                                                          Check the weather back in NV/CO/CA. A little snow is falling in the Rockies.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                            Even worse; flying into SFO where they're predicting typhoon "remnants." Fingers crossed that we get home to the dogs.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: vorpal

                                                                                                                                    OMG & LOL! That is too funny. I have the same problem with my mother, though overall we do cook very well together, and really enjoy it on those rare chances we get. We even took a knife skills class together - what do you get the woman who has everything?! The other thing she does that drives me batty is to throw away wrappers and containers in mid-meal. So, for instance, we have no place to put the unused sour cream afterwards. I'm a raging tree-hugger, and she goes through more Saran Wrap in one meal than I do in a year!

                                                                                                                                3. Doesn't bother me if folks are in my kitchen while I'm cooking, but they need to be prepared to be put to work. My mom and dad cook together, and when I and they are in the same place we all work on stuff together. I'm not personally a big fan of that open-floor-plan that others here insist on, but it does mean when I'm working in the kitchen I'm isolated and if there are others in the house, I would just as soon they come on in the kitchen, have a drink, take a turn at the cutting board, or fetch things out of the pantry for me.

                                                                                                                                  1. For me, it depends on the occasion and who is watching. Years ago, I taught a few cooking classes, so I had people watching me cook regularly. If someone wants to learn how to make something, I invite them over to watch. But I hate hate hate to have a crowd gather in the kitchen (or anyone) to chat with me while I cook, most especially for a dinner party! It's distracting and it really messes up my timing and memory of what to do next. I suppose it might be different if I used recipes, but I don't. Well, when I do use a recipe I read it a few times the day before, but not the actual day I cook. So unless there's a reason for someone to be in the kitchen, get out! Interestingly, my daughter is the opposite. She has huge (in-law) gatherings in her house for holidays, and everyone is in the kitchen with her and often everyone is cooking something different. I guess it's pendulum swing or something like that.

                                                                                                                                    I don't like anyone bringing something to go on the table when they're invited to dinner in my house. It probably has something to do with my age, but when I entertain, I spend a lot of time planning the entire meal and I don't want someone bringing a saurkraut casserole to go with my coquilles St Jacues. Which is not to say that I cant host a pot luck, but that's not the same as hosting a sit-down dinner.

                                                                                                                                    I watch mostly two types of TV shows; remodeling/decorating and food shows, and I am constantly amazed at the number of people who buy houses, then tear down a wall in the kitchen so you can see the dirty dishes or mess from cooking from any angle in the entire house! I want my kitchen behind walls at the back of the house and the dining room situated so that no one at the table can see the stove or sink. To have guests watch me cook for a dinner party is about as unthinkable as having them watch me put on my make-up. Some things just have to be kept private! '-)

                                                                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                      Totally the opposite. At two homes and now our current, you could not hide. I installed a six burner Thermador stove and built a butcher-block work area all around it, at one home, so friends could watch or help! Most is done ahead, for most dinner parties, anyway.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                                        Then is it fair to assume you don't mind people watching you put on your make-up either? '-)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                          Holy crap! Well, this IS NAF.... It certainly isn't.
                                                                                                                                          I'm not a "Chablis" kind of guy. I don't cook naked (like Paulustrious), but I wouldn't give a damn about people watching me cook that way, either.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                                            I sincerely have no idea what a "Chablis kind of guy" is. Please educate me :)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lady... A transvestite entertainer.
                                                                                                                                              Played "herself" in the movie: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Scargod

                                                                                                                                          I would *love* to help use that Thermador and butcher block work area, Scargod! (Nor do I mind people watching me put on my makeup - they've already seen how I look sans makeup anyway).

                                                                                                                                        3. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                          I cannot stand anyone watching me put on make up. I can't get ready with other girlfriends or in front of my boyfriend. I can handle sharing the mirror to do my hair but I'd always rather not! I thought I was the only one!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Yes Please

                                                                                                                                            Not at all. I suspect there are a bunch of us!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                              I can't put on mascara with my mouth closed unless I really, really focus on it.

                                                                                                                                              I can't remove the seeds and slick innards from squashes, gourds, or melons without a look of utter revulsion on my face.

                                                                                                                                              I don't want anyone witnessing either of those.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                                                                                                                                                It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a woman in possession of a mascara wand (and using it), must have her mouth open.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                  Of course. You can open your eyes wider when you also open your mouth (or at least it feels that way).

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                                                                                                                    You try that BobB, and then come back and tell us whether it is so. buttertart's statement just above yours is absolutely the truth. :-)

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                      That's my point, Linda - I'm agreeing with her. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: BobB

                                                                                                                                                        Oops - sorry. Read it as opening your eyes wider vs. opening your mouth. It's been a long day - even by 1pm my time when I posted that. :-)