The other day while chopping garlic I realized I have allowed myself to succumb to ‘food-shaming’. I was making a quick uncomplicated supper and I wanted some garlic flavoring. A few chopped bits from already-processed cloves in oil from the glass jar in the fridge would have done OK. Alas, I don’t have such anymore. Countless cooking videos and top chefs have told me what’s in the glass jars is rubbish and you’re a bad cook if you use any. Apart from its inferior taste* their issue with garlic in a jar conflicts with how a proper cook would do: you should know how to chop garlic and do it right too. To this day I am not very good at chopping things, and every time I chop things (especially garlic) I feel an invisible panel of Gordon Ramseys are frowning at me. Someone is a little tired of eating dinner while I critique my cooking, pointing out to him this isn’t cooked long enough or this lacks nuance etc.

Growing up in the Midwest, folks didn’t go look at food this way. Something was ‘good’ or it wasn’t. I wanted (and still do want) to be a good cook. Good cooking done well is a joy. However I’ve gone over to the dark side of cooking ‘the right way’. Mr. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who wrote a book based on scientific research towards the best way to cook things, admits his cookbook has been shanghaied by folks (mostly men) battling it out over the right way to grill steaks, fry eggs, etc. Oh the horror. He states folks have missed the point. There should be joy of cooking and individual variations based on preferences.

Yes, sometimes dinner at La Casa de Spo is a box of M&C mixed with whatever items are at hand.** This is convenient and dammit it tastes good thank you very much. Not all cooking has to be TikTok stellar or made with organic ingredients hand-picked at 3AM by third generation organic Amish farmers. I need to get over the shame felt from making hamburger hot dish rather than coq au vin (from real capon).

Once upon a time I enjoyed playing the piano. The last time I had lessons my teacher was into proper position and hand placement. I felt I was being prepared for a concert at Hill Auditorium. He wasn’t wrong to focus on technique, but it took all the fun of playing and I stopped lessons and the piano too. I don’t want cooking to follow the same route.

In time my chopping, sautéing, and such will improve with practice and experience. Getting better knives and pans should help. While I journey I must remember this is supposed to be fun and not my entry on The British Bake off.

*They aren’t wrong. Freshly-chopped garlic tastes better than what’s in the jar. This isn’t the point.

**Usually made with tuna, this is called “Tuna Hemingway”.