I take it as a given that the thing humans do least well is communicate. Nowhere is this more evident than when one person who knows how to do something but is not an expert wants to explain, without props, to someone who is a complete novice how to do it.
My first piece of advice to the novice is if the teacher says - nay, insists - "It's easy," then you must say immediately that your mother is dying, your manslaughter trial begins in twenty minutes, or that you have recently contracted a loathsome social disease. Say anything that will allow you to make your escape.
Throughout my adult life, the topic regarding which I have been most frequently - that is to say, always - victimized is cooking. Not one peson has ever tried to explain to me how to make a particular dish without saying "It's easy."
Unhappily, they clandestinely share a dictionary with uncommon definitions for common words, and once they begin their cooking explanations it becomes obvious that their version of "easy" means "So complex that several days into the preparation of this dish you will eat the raw ingredients with your bare hands in order to stave off starvation."
One evening each week, or as close to that schedule as we can manage, I visit my old junk mail friend, Bobby, previously mentioned in this blog. Our arrangement is that we alternate cooking responsibilities. Bobby can cook. I, on the other hand, . . . .
Given my limitations, the variety of meals that I cook for us is limited, and it recently occurred to me that it *is* the twenty-first century after all and perhaps Google really is my friend. I began a search for "easy meals."
This is the absolute truth: I clicked on the first results link and at that site I clicked on a "100 Easy Dinners" link. I then clicked on the link to the first dinner title that caught my interest: Chicken Marsala.
Keep in mind that to me, "easy" means "Start a stove burner and dump everything on top of it." I'd even include putting the food into a pot or a pan first. OK? Now, forget the process, just look at the list of ingredients:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows
2 (6 to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in halves and pounded thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups sliced mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shiitake)
3/4 cup Marsala
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives, for garnish
Recipe for "Essence" (required above)
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Now here is a list of the above ingredients which I do *not* have on hand:
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
freshly ground black pepper
dried leaf oregano
And a list of the ingredients that I *do* have on hand is:
Now one *expects* to have to buy the chicken, and perhaps one or two ingredients, but you see what I mean, right?
Perhaps I should mention that I *do* have a tablespoon too. No, don't be so cynical. I also have a measuring cup.
Which of you will volunteer to contact the usage panels of the various Webster's dictionaries, the American Heritage dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary, and numerous others, in order to inform them that they omitted a definition of the word "easy?"
I threw the word "bachelors" into my search and things look more promising. One conclusion reached in short order, however, is that if credit is given for a recipe and that credit goes to a woman, I'll just move along, thank you very much, 'preciate it, my mother is dying, I gotta go. When it comes to "easy" we don't speak the same language.
As an aside, the *best* single instruction regarding a recipe that I ever heard was at a back yard party in Maryland. The hostess and another woman, both thirtyish, were talking about the recipe for something the hostess had prepared. The latter was reciting ingredients and when she got to vanilla extract, the guest asked "How much?"
"Oh, 'bout a mouthful."