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Cooking tips from a non-cook

Posted: June 23, 2011 10:24 a.m.
Updated: June 24, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Through a set of circumstances that comes up about this time each year, I’ve been cooking for myself lately.

After two weeks of it, I’m fortunate to still be alive.

Cooking is one of those things that you either like or you don’t. There aren’t many people who are ambivalent about it. Put me down for “worse than dislike.”

In my case, cooking is a relative term. I include in the broad realm of cooking anything that involves opening a refrigerator, turning a knob on a stove or flipping the switch on a microwave oven.

That includes heating frozen pizzas.

Hey, you might be thinking that’s not cooking. But you have to open a box, read the directions, put the pizza in the oven and wash your plate when you’re finished.

To me, that’s cooking.

Julia Child, bless her dear departed self, might not have considered it cooking. Famous chefs like Paula Deen and Wolfgang Puck and Emeril, who misplaced his last name in a pantry somewhere, might scoff at the notion.

And I’ll admit popping a DiGiorno in the oven isn’t as complicated as whipping up a soufflé.

But that’s an argument for another time.

If you’re one of those people who don’t like cooking, one of the biggest problems is that by the time you finish mixing the ingredients, baking it or broiling it or however it is you apply heat to it, scooping it out onto your plate, and setting the table, you’re too tired to eat it.

Knowing I had a couple of weeks to fend for myself in the kitchen, I went on the Internet recently and did a search for easy recipes.

Turned out that what’s easy to most folks isn’t so simple for me.

An easy recipe, in my mind, has three primary tenets, which I call the “no more” rules:

• No more than five ingredients, with none of them requiring anything more than dumping them into the cooking vessel, whatever that might be.

If you need to slice or dice, puree or sautee, reduce or increase, mix or match, then it’s too complicated for the average kitchen dunce.

• No more than 30 minutes of cooking time once you’ve dumped your five or fewer ingredients into the pot/pan/casserole dish.

What’s more, you don’t want to stir, sift, lift or do anything other than letting the stove do its work. Turn it on, set the timer, eat when the bell rings.

• No more than two dishes to wash.

If you have to use a Brillo pad or some kind of cleanser, you’re going to strain your elbow, possibly entailing a trip to the emergency room. Keep it simple. If you can’t clean something with a sponge, you’re getting too fancy.

There’s a dishwashing problem that men face that complicates the situation. The pores in our hands are larger than women’s pores, so we can’t tolerate extremely hot water as well as women can. That’s a medical fact. I promise.

So that’s it, everything I know about cooking wrapped up in a few words.

And by the way, if you’re in a charitable mood and thinking of taking a meal to a shut-in, I know where one lives.

Just leave it on the front porch and ring the doorbell.

I’ll be forever grateful.

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