A Blunderer’s Confessions


A blunderer at what? The blunderers to everything, even if they exist, would never admit their affiliation to such categories. Only those who are skilled in something confess their inability in the other fields. Instead, we always need to communicate what we have just learned and did not know before. Except the field in which we are – or think to be – some specialists, it is supposed that our inventions or discoveries are commonly known banalities for the really specialists of those fields. So we come to the conclusion that only when we are learning about something we find out how ignorant we were before. Hence the ascertainment that we are aware of our inability only in the measure in witch we know something. This is why I think we better would speak about our observed inaptitude. Hereinafter I proposed to myself to keep a small diary for the next weeks, as life has put me in the situation to do what I never did so far: cooking.


Observing incompetence


Some days ago, my wife broke her left leg, so that she is in the hospital now (Thanks for your compassion), so that I have the possibility to show to myself my hypothetic talent in gastronomy. It is easy to suppose that, after a couple of days, I am the best person for advisory.


The advice number one, the most important: assure yourself to have a different solution in store: having the meal in a restaurant, at friends, or at least a can in your storehouse. As long as this reserve exists, anything you will prepare will be considered acceptable, so that the reserve will never be used. Failing it, instead, what you will do risks to be catastrophically.


From my “cookery book” (that will never be printed): fried green beans (pods). They might be boiled, but I did not quarrel myself for it, as they were delicious. It would be useless to write the recipe, because it would be similar with a common one, well known by every housewife. The problem is not one of communication, but one of interpretation. What I misinterpreted remains unknown by myself. The only way is you try yourself and – if you are equally unskilful as me – you have the chance to make something even better than I did. So, my second advice is: use classic recipes only as suggestions; the interpretation is important and it belongs to you.


At table, you will have a drink according to your preferences. It is recommendable a wine blank or red, fitting with the meal. Still, while you are cooking it is absolutely requisite to have handy a strong drink. It would be useless to explain why. You will notice alone, observing the results are diametrically opposed: with it anything you would prepare will be excellent, while without it the result will be at least questionable. Of course, I supposed you are the single beneficiary of your meals. As a matter of fact, it would be a pity to squander your efforts for other’s whims. I think this one is the third advice; even it probably is the first one, but . . . you understand me, you who understand.


For finishing, you need some ingredients. This is a secret well known by housewives. In the borscht, for example – I never made, but ate it many times – they use cream. The Romanian word for it is “dresura”, a noun derived from a verb with the meaning of “repair”, as proof that such meals needs to be repaired. In this way, if we redress all meals with cream, all meal will have the taste of cream. What boring! As for other ingredients in order to ameliorate the taste, it is a question of inspiration. Anyway, they are lots of them in delicatessens and other shops, most as unknown as dubious, but that must be tasted.


I have just found out a new method of cooking: burnt decoction. Don’t smile! It must not be completely burnt, but only a little. First, I had put more water that necessary, which is against to my principle according which one must put water only what is necessary to make the boil possible. This time I was wrong putting too much and I must wait the evaporation of supplementary water. Meantime I wrote the precedent paragraph, which took me more time as that estimated, so … Now, as I repaired the error with a drop of additional water and some “dresuri”, may say that I obtained something excellent for eat, with an non-assignable name and impossible to be repeated. (I am not sure of wishing for it again.) As o consequence, nothing is lost, everything (or almost) is recoverable. This may be the first principle of cooking. You must recognize that it is more human than the first principle of thermodynamics.



The previous paragraph reminds me a happening of many years ago. My wife was about to leave as she was on guard in hospital and I remained to turn off the fire after one hour. On the gas cooler there was a traditional Romanian food named “sarmale” (force-meat rolls in cabbage). As one hour passed while I was sleeping – an unscheduled fact – when I woke up I caught exactly the moment in which the last water drop was evaporating. I immediately poured cold water till the level where it was when I had undertook the relay race as cook and let it to boil another hour. This was my intention, because I started to read and – caught by the book – I reached in the same phase as after the nap. I repeated the procedure, proposing to myself to be more attentively. This time I succeeded. Few more tastefully sarmale I ever ate.


Beyond all doubt, tableware of one-use is an important invention, but some pan of one-use would be much more awfully. It is easy to wash tableware, almost pleasant, but terribly difficult with pans and even the god of nature from Greek mythology (Pen) does not help, unfortunately.


The written recipes are not always complete. It is understandable that banal operations, well know by everyone and applied implicitly, as would be to open the bottle before pouring the oil, to not be mentioned in the prescription of preparing. Still, behind this idea, some “secrets of fabrication” are hidden. This small trick is obvious, because – on the one hand – they give numerous banal indications, while – on the other hand – some necessary explanations are absent. Here is an elementary example: for fried eggs they do not say to break and cast away the egg shell. Do not smile! I know that my example is an exaggerate one, but then why in the recipes for cakes they say to use only nutmeats, although nobody thought to put whole nuts. In the case of eggs, the exaggeration is not too great, because in other situations they are boiled in shell and barked afterwards, preferable after they cool off a little.


Tomorrow, my wife is to go out of the hospital. This does not mean that I will not cook any longer. On the contrary, I will do it for two persons, as she will be immobilized in bad for several weeks. But my liberty of experiments will be much diminished. How much I will see.