Wednesday, August 01, 2007

If I was a contestant on Iron Chef, I'd be in trouble. Firstly because they all speak Japanese. Let's say this is actually Iron Chef America, just so we don't have to worry about that.

More importantly, however, because they'd whip the veil off a vat of live tuna and expect me to prepare a five course meal using them as the central ingredient. In one hour. Without a cookbook.

My strategy would be this: 'Sous chefs GO!' Then I'd watch them do their thing.

My cooking skills are inadequate to be competing on Iron Chef. I don't even have a pair of orange Crocs.

But I would never say 'I can't cook'. The people who say that are saying something far, far more serious. They're saying that if you give them simple, straightforward, unambiguous directions, all the basic tools, and all the ingredients, they cannot bake a cake.

And that's scary. When someone makes such a ridiculous claim, your first thought should probably be 'Can you read?' If you can read and you're not a paraplegic, how can you possibly not be able to bake a cake? The book says '1 cup milk'. How do you mess that up? Grab an empty 7-11 SuperGulp cup and fill it with milk? Or maybe upon seeing the clear, simple instruction to add a cup of milk they proclaim 'No stupid book is going to tell me what to do!' and put in two cups just to show it who's boss.

These are the skills required for cooking:
* Measuring
* Mixing
* Pouring
* Reading simple instructions
* Following simple instructions

I'm going to hazard a guess and say it's the last item that gives them difficulties. This means not just that they can't cook, however. It means they can't drive ('speed limit 35? That means 35km/s, right?'), they can't go shopping ('the label says $3.99, but I'm going to pay $1.27 instead'), they can't do anything. No one is that stupid.1

You can cook.

1 I have said this a hundred times and every time I have been wrong. People are so stupid--and wilfully so, in most cases--that no matter how far I lower my expectations, someone will still manage to blow my mind.


Leif K-Brooks said...

Your assumption is that most recipes, if followed correctly, will always produce something decent. Is that true? Maybe the instructions are subtly flawed or incomplete, and someone who 'knows how to cook' will mentally correct (or add detail to) them.

LKBM said...

Amelia Bedelia or another comically literal person might find them challenging, but I don't think there's too much ambiguity or flawness in most recipes.

Anonymous said...

You forgot about some things.

1. Memory. If you've already added salt, you need to remember that and not add it again.

2. Sequencing. You said that if people can't follow instructions on a recipe, they can't follow them at all. However, they might be able to follow instructions, just not in the right order. They know to pay $3 at a store, but not to put in an egg, then sugar.

3. A lot of recipes say things like "stir", or "let sit until hard". They don't specify how long to stir, or how hard. They don't define hard, or how to know if it's hard. A lot of things are up to interpretation.

4. You assume that the trouble is with following instructions. However, there are many people that can't measure well, or can't read well, or don't have the motor skills to pour or mix. People can be able to move normally, but can't pour.

5. Following instructions is hard for some people. Not following instructions as in doing what someone wants. Following instructions as in being able to do something they read. They don't know what it is they're supposed to be doing. Reading instructions is hard for them, and they can't figure out what they have to do. There are a lot of skills needed for following instructions, and you're over-simplifying everything.

But otherwise, I agree with you completely. When people say they can't cook they usually mean without recipes. But a normal human being, without any serious problems, should be able to cook with instructions.

The logical assumption is that everyone who claims they can't cook has a serious problem with one of the things one of us has posted. But if you were to ask them, they would probably deny it. There are two possibilities why:

I. They're lying
II. We forgot something

I vote for the first one.