Good Eats

Good Eats
A Gamer in the Kitchen

Rob Zacny | 9 Feb 2010 12:28
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The skills involved in frying an egg are the most basic in cooking, but Point's method held them to the highest standard. Point had an elaborate recipe - more of a ritual, really - involving two saucers, clarified butter, and only the faintest wisp of heat. The procedure is almost unrecognizable as "frying," but it produces an egg that is unmarred by even a trace of burnt butter or crispiness.

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The world is full of people who can make a few simple dishes, because they only wanted to know the bare minimum required to prevent themselves from starving to death or turning into Mayor McCheese. They grudgingly prepare certain foods, but they never really cook. It's a utilitarian approach that allows for little enjoyment or surprise in either the outcome or the process. One friend of mine said he refused to make a meal if making it took longer than eating it, and so he subsisted on sandwiches, bagged salads and carry-out. He didn't need anything else and had other things he wanted to do with his time.

Hardcore gaming involves the same kind of impracticality as hardcore cooking. It's for people who can get really serious about their own enjoyment and willing to work hard for their fun. Challenges that drive practical people to look for easier options just draw us further down the rabbit hole. Not knowing whether you can do something is reason enough for trying.

That logic has led me to discard convenience after convenience. My grocery store carries dozens of different breads, but I insist on baking my own because I know exactly what I want and exactly what goes into it. I stopped buying ground beef a while ago (partly because "ground beef" has become a terrifyingly inexact phrase with overtones of "mystery meat") and started grinding my own. When it's cheeseburger night at my apartment, they really are my burgers, from the bun to the meat to the condiments. (My partner loves making pickles) I can't go back to letting strangers do the heavy lifting now that I know the pride that comes from producing a great meal from raw ingredients.

That's not a feeling I get very often. Most things in life have a way of becoming routine. They resist refinement or, if they can be refined, their improvement is so subtle that the difference is undetectable. Improvement, self or otherwise, is rarely that rewarding. Cooking, like gaming, is reassuringly unequivocal - one of those rare activities where it's easy to know you're improving. A thousand things tell you, "You're better at this than you were last month."

My knife is sharper because I've learned how to keep it that way. I do prep faster and more consistently. I know how my oven heats, and I can manage the heat on my range. I know each of my pots and pans, which I should use for what dish and just how I need to treat them. The kitchen is not a place of doubt.

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