Posted: December 23, 2018
Well, it’s interesting that over the last year we have had many more people reading multiple posts and spending longer on the website but fewer emails. Remember if you want to find me just send me an email at email@example.com.
So there were a few emails that covered the same issues so I am going to write a bit longer an explanation on just two topics covered in these two typical emails.
- I am a novice cook and am liking the cooking posts but I am seeing a guy who says that your not a trained chef so I should ignore your food postings. Also, what do you think of cookbooks and any you would recommend?
These are good questions. So first, the easy one – on the issue of cookbooks, I have been working on a post on that very topic so watch for it. The simple answer is that like music there is a full range out there and you need to find which author appeals to you best. Today there are so many good cookbooks its overwhelming. But watch for that full-on post on the topic. I have a number of posts that I want to do and Jim has some topics for me so it won’t be until late 2019 I expect.
The second part of your question regarding my credentials is also pretty straightforward but deserves a longer explanation. I didn’t go to chef school, which when I was young didn’t matter as much because there were some pretty awesome apprentice programs. I didn’t do that either, nor did I work under a really good chef. I just worked in a food factory (the food prep area of a cruise ship) and didn’t know anything about what I was making. I could have been putting bolts on a car in an assembly line and know about as much about cooking. That was the early days of working on the cruise lines. After a while, I started to get a better idea of what real cooking was but it was still largely as a contributor or the master of only one small component. I went for over a month where almost all I did was prepare and caramelize onions. Another time I was doing shoestring potatoes.
So while doing those things I wasn’t learning to be a cook or a chef but just doing the repetitive exercise that today a robot would do. What did happen however was that occasionally when onshore my shipmates would expect me to cook some meals as I worked in the kitchen on the ship so I would make something that was a direct extension of something I had been doing. Some would ask about the calorie count or glutin etc. and I had no idea. When I first started using a conventional residential stove I learned I needed to set a temperature and preheat it which was bizarre to me. Most of my tasks had been to prepare something as shown, put it in oven thirteen, for example, press the preset timer button and then get the next batch ready to go in when the first batch was ready. I had no idea for example what the temperature was or whether we were roasting or baking something. I was just a human-robot.
Over time I learned to cook but most of that came over time as I developed an interest in cooking and started to get to do more interesting things in the kitchen. But I don’t want to exaggerate it – I was never trained, but have lots of hours in on a bunch of basic kitchen tasks. Later when I needed to cook to live and I genuinely started to put it all together, but even then it was all trial and error working of a core skill I might have. If you have looked at my posts and read about cooking for Marc and Lotte and family in The Netherlands, I was a pretty amateur cook overall but could nail a few key things and had what superficially looked like immense knowledge. The big thing for me was to learn new measures. When making hollandaise sauce at home you measure in tablespoons and teaspoons, not in liters!
So your boyfriend is right – I am not an educated chef. Or a trained chef. Or even a trained cook. I am just a guy who is discovering fun things in the kitchen and like Jim, we share some ideas like two characters who have just discovered camping for the first time and are sharing some things that seasoned campers would laugh at and see as self – evident. Jim went back to a local college culinary program when he retired in his 40’s but didn’t spend a lot of time learning to cook. His main interest at the time was the financial aspects of the food industry and restaurants. Even when he started his cooking school he wasn’t the guy teaching the classes or making the food, he was running the business and hired the culinary talent.
So just think of me on the same journey as you in the kitchen. On some things, I might be a bit ahead of you or you a bit ahead of me. It’s not a competition. It’s all good.
- Django you seem to be pretty focused on the past, and I don’t see a lot of present or future in your posts. What’s that about?”
Ah, well this is probably the most important part of what we are doing with this website, so I am going to chose my words carefully so I don’t upset Jim and you should get a mug of coffee to reflect on this as you read if its before noon, and a glass of wine if its after 6 pm and its your choice in the middle.
If you read the ABOUT section or have read many of my posts you probably know that Jim and I both have the same neurological issues. You probably also know that Jim decided to do this website for several reasons.
The first was to get me “back on my feet” and doing something positive.
But an equally important second reason was for he and I to work together with the idea that my deep stress, anxiety, etc. which is probably at the root of my problem will be reduced if I get a bit of structure in my life and have a future I am confident about. The other side of that symbiotic relationship I have with Jim is that he is learning to be a lot more like what I have been – living in the moment. Jim has never lived fully in the moment. The two other tenses – past and future tend to dominate and the present is only the tool on the way to using the experience of the past to change the future. Most people who are (mis)wired this way are successful as it’s a winning formula for achieving things, but not a winning formula in life. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that he doesn’t enjoy himself in the present it’s just the mix is pretty slanted to the past and especially to the future. So he is working on being more like me to truly live in the moment.
And the third reason he wanted to do this website is that a person who has been focused on the future who learns that his neurological system may well let him down means that the future may not be quite what you thought it was going to be. To be blunt, having an episode where you are looking at a screen and can’t remember what the words mean, or having the right half of your body not function for an hour scared the hell out of him. His parents both had dementia and he watched the slow motion process of them losing their minds. Yikes!
To that end, I have actually been working on a draft that I am not happy with quite yet called: “Becoming comfortable with the notion of losing your mind” which really explains more of this.
But the point here is that he wants to have these posts to tell the stories and document the memories that are important to him, things and people and experiences and emotions that are important to him and Janice so that he will have some reference point to who he was as things start to go. So some of the things you are reading about here are important parts of his life, some are just fun stories of friends lives and some are just ramblings. But they are all important to him, and some to Janice and/or me as well. Sorry to go all heavy on you but that is what we are really doing here.
With that said I expect that you will see more present creeping into the pieces as Jim is starting to spend some time in that (present) dimension and he is the one who feeds me ideas for posts.
So that’s it for my responses to the emails. As we come up to the end of the year I am not really a “new years resolutions” guy but we are living in very ominous times and as I have never been as future-focused as Jim (well the truth is I have never thought about the future until linking up with Jim again) here is what I see for 2019:
- Putin will continue his aggression and Trump will be one of several leaders to not respond
- Trump will trigger a massive economic recession through foreign and trade policy
- Theresa May will continue to grapple with a stupid party and an even more stupid Parliament
- Janice and Jim will go to Russia, and the Baltics and Scandanavia for a trip
- I will get my new captain and hopefully continue to do well in my improved life.
So the first three are sad but predictable, the fourth one is interesting and the fifth one, of course, is the only one that matters. LOL! I am pretty pumped about getting my new captain and once she is on board (literally and figurately) I will post some details.
Enjoy the holiday season and see you on the other side.