I have some rules for my kitchen. I mean, I guess not every cook is like this, but all the serious home cooks I know have pretty much the same ones. It’s pretty funny how similar we are actually. The reason I mention this is that sometimes I read books about chefs and, well, side-eye them. Because sometimes it’s pretty obvious that the writer has never cooked before and the book was edited by someone who maybe doesn’t even have a kitchen. But rather than go all rantypants about it, I figured I’d just list out some of the very common, very normal rules I have for my kitchen. If you don’t cook, you’ll probably think that I’m crazy and obsessive. That’s because I am.
1. Don’t start cooking unless the kitchen is clean.
Yes, I have multiples of everything including sets of bowls, measuring spoons, pans and beaters, but unless I (or, more commonly, my husband) wash them right away, it’s very difficult for me to get down to any kind of serious kitchen work. This is not helped by the fact that we have a galley kitchen with limited counter space, but even with people who have lots more space than I do, this is a very common rule. Cooks don’t leave sinks full of dishes lying around. It’s too much of a hassle.
2. Don’t touch me when I’m cooking.
I guess some people have fantasies about their significant other nuzzling their neck while they stir a pot. However, I usually have at least two burners, my stand mixer and the oven on whenever I’m cooking and that takes concentration. So unless you want me to burn my caramel, walk into you with a pot of hot sugar and egg whites or bang you on the knee with the oven door, just stay out of my way. Unless I’m making nothing more complicated than tea. Then you may nuzzle.
3. Never, ever run out of butter, sugar, eggs, flour or any herbs or spices.
At any given time, I have 10 pounds of all-purpose flour, 10 pounds of white sugar, 2 dozen eggs, 4 pounds of unsalted butter and back-ups of every commonly used herb or spice in my kitchen. Serious bakers do not run out of butter mid-recipe. Having less than a pound in the fridge triggers anxiety attacks. I might not have the exact ingredients I need for making something exotic, but I can always, always make pancakes, scrambled eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta with red or white sauce and chocolate chip cookies. Always.
4. Do not stick your finger in my pot.
I don’t care how good it smells. If you stick your finger in my pot, you don’t get any. First, it’s unsanitary. Second, it’s not done yet and you don’t know enough to be able to tell how it’s going to taste when it’s finished. Third, there are a dozen tasting spoons sitting right by the stove. If you absolutely cannot refrain from entering my kitchen and tasting what I’m cooking, use a spoon. And not the one I’m stirring with! I’ll hit you with it! And then I’ll make you wash it.
5. No sex in my kitchen.
Counters are covered in crumbs and sticky goo. Stovetops and ovens are hot. Ingredients are in the way. Small appliances with sharp parts and heavy bases do not like falling off counters. Projects will burn. Stuff will spill. You’ll get a yeast infection. So no. No sex in the kitchen. Use the dining room table if you must.
6. No, you can’t help.
I know you mean well, but you can’t help me. Sit down, have a drink, eat the snack I will have inevitably provided. I’ll feel like I have to give you a job and you won’t do it right and you’ll be in the way and I’ll just get annoyed. So yeah. Sit. If I want you to taste something or give you a beater or spoon to lick, I’ll bring it to you.
7. Don’t lie to me.
If I ask you how something is, do not lie to me. I want to know if you love it. I want to know if you think something is bland or missing. If I tell you something is missing, don’t try to reassure me that it isn’t. I really do know! And then next time you have whatever it was and I tell you I’ve perfected it, you will inevitably agree with me that it really is better this time. So just trust me and help me out. I don’t want your reassurances. I want your criticism.
So if I’ve come down hard on a kitchen-y book, these are some of the reasons why. That said, I love romances involving food. In fact, I’m reviewing one on Monday, Anne Calhoun’s Afternoon Delight. I loved it. She didn’t violate my rules.