Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Danger and The Amateur Gourmet

A little over a year ago, around the time Dirty Sugar Cookies came out, The Amateur Gourmet, (also known as Adam Roberts) and I threw down some vegetarian dim sum in Chinatown so he'd know who the hell I was when he hosted a pitstop on the Dirty Sugar Cookies Virtual Book Tour. In between assorted treasure balls and monk dumplings, he told me how he was writing a book. Then we went to my favorite restaurant supply store and looked at rat traps and a wok big enough to stir fry a toddler.

Well, now that book has been published and it's a real corker, complete with recipes, celebrity appearances and, the author takes care to note, Asian lesbians! It's titled The Amateur Gourmet, after his blog and I'm thinking a tv show and a line of salad dressing can't be too far behind! Read it to relive the sensual, saucy, fire-fuelled awakening that laid waste to your culinary virginity, then pass it on to a friend who can't tell the difference between a kitchen timer and a vibrating egg.

Lest I mislead you, this book is also clean enough to lay on your Lutheran granny, Asian lesbians and all. (As far as I can tell, Adam has nothing but respect for them, in a chaste and non-objective sort of way that acknowledges their individual strengths, weaknesses and kim chi preferences.) Especially if you're granny's a timid-in-the-kitchen type who needs to bust out a bit. Right off the bat, Adam airs his numerous failed dishes, as if they're nothing to be afraid of! Rock on! The man's got a good handle on the the kinds of things that can freak even an experienced amateur way the fork out:

Knives. Farmer's Markets. Cooking a big holiday dinner for parents who are accustomed to dining out every night.

I decided that rather than discuss the perils of publishing, I'd ask Adam to delve deeper into the dangers lurking in the average home kitchen. This approach unleashed a bloodbath of traumatic memories that won't get me hired as an interviewer any time soon (mostly b/c the lion's share of the memories are mine...)

Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Adam Roberts, The Amateur Gourmet!

DSC: You devote an entire chapter to knives and I must admit, I do fear my uneducated knife work may lead to injury. My worst gash thusfar came from a tomato juice can. I couldn't tell what was blood and what was juice and it was spraying all over the place.

I also have fond memories of the time one of Greg's predecessors had bought himself a new set of cheap knives that came glued to a sheet of cardboard. He was trying to pull them off the cardboard and one of them flew off and gouged his finger pretty good, just as the pizza delivery man rang the bell. It was quite a frenzied scene, and in retrospect, I probably looked like some sort of spattered, wild eyed lunatic when I yanked the door open for the delivery guy, who took his money and fled. After the wound was bandaged and the blood mopped up, we sat down to eat and I was like, "Damn, he forgot the beer!" So, I call the restaurant and tell them that their delivery guy forgot the beer, could he please bring some more? About twenty minutes later, the doorbell rings. I open the door and there's nobody there, just a six pack on the door mat. I bring it inside and that is when I see the original six pack on the floor, where the delivery guy must have abandoned it in his haste to flee the murder scene.

How about you, Adam? Any bad knife stories? What should we look out for besides tomato juice lids?

TAG: It's really hard to one-up that story!! Luckily, I haven't impaled myself with a knife just yet. Like you, I did cut myself on a can just the other day. I was making a coconut cake and I opened a can of cream of coconut and cut myself on it. Not too bad, though, the Band-Aid stopped the bleeding. And the blood gave the cake a nice beefy flavor.

DSC: Let's talk about scaldings. I have a fear of that too, but thankfully no first hand experience. The closest I've come is a friend from college who caught her nightie on a pot of boiling water and it spilled all over her and the wet flannel wrapped itself around her and... oh man, I don't want to go on, but that just reminded me of another friend from college who was making spaghetti with her pet bird on her shoulder and her best friend, who was kind of loud and theatrical said something in a loud and theatrical way, startling the bird, who fell to his death in the pot of boiling spaghetti water. What a way to go, even for a pasta lover. Have you ever scalded yourself?

TAG: Ayun, following these stories is like following The Beatles! A bird boiled in spaghetti water?? My God. I haven't really scalded myself either. But I will tell a story about killing pets. When my family moved to Florida from New York in 1990, the coolest thing about our new house was there was a beautiful aquarium in the kitchen. Without question that was the new house's best feature and I was stoked to fill it up with fish. So, once we moved in, I dragged my parents to the pet store where we bought all these cool looking fish, plopped them in the tank and my brother and I delighted at our first and only pets. Then, after a week or two, it started to smell. Really bad. We cleaned the tank but it didn't matter. Our kitchen smelled like a sewer. So dad, an enterprising spirit, did what any college-educated dental professional would do: he poured a tablespoon of Chlorine into the tank. "It won't hurt the fish," he promised us. "It'll just get rid of the smell." We watched as the syrupy blue substance permeated the tank and then we started screaming: the fish's skin started melting off, and other fish flipped upside down and started zooming to the surface. It was a great fish massacre--fish around the world still talk about it--and my brother and I were forever traumatized.

DSC: No hot oil mishaps, I hope. When I was 3 or 4, I was helping my grandmother make pancakes and before she could stop me, I reached in to flip one the way I'd seen her do with a spatula, except I had no spatula. I still have a small circular scar on my back of my hand, though in full disclosure, it's sort of like my invisible friend. It exists but very few people besides me can actually see it. Tell me about yourself. Any burns? Any scars?

TAG:Same kind of story (and I tell it in the book). My mom was making eggs with me when I was very little and I stupidly reached up and burned my knuckle on the side of the pan. It all happened very fast but I remember how freaked out I was. Years later--in fact this very year--I was making onion rings and I added too many at once and the oil started to boil over. That was FREAKY: I remember Mario Batali saying on TV that was the most dangerous thing that could happen because the oil could ignite as it spills all over your kitchen, burning everything down. But I quickly moved the pan away from the flame and carried it to the other side of the counter saving the day and earning the title: Apartment Hero.

DSC: Ever had a kitchen fire? I've had a bathtub fire, but the only time I had the kitchen in flames was when I left a popcorn pot unattended and that wasn't too tough to get a lid on. (And once I was a bit hasty in calling 911 when the neighbors' barbeque grill reflected off their second story sliding doors in such a way as to make it look like the whole building was on fire. I think I may have lay on the floor until the firemen went away.)

TAG:No kitchen fire to speak of, except the one I mention above. I do, however, remember going to the Hard Rock Cafe with my high school debate team and one of the girls on the team had long frizzy hair with lots of spray in it and it was her birthday. We got her a cake with candles and as she was leaning over to blow them out, her hair ignited and we all enjoyed smacking her on the head to put out the flames. That's a fond memory.

DSC: Let's move on to food poisoning. Those who've retained their Dirty Sugar Cookies know I had listeria while I was pregnant with Milo, thanks to my good friends at Boar's Head, as best I can figure. I don't think I've ever gotten sick off of something I actually cooked myself. You?

TAG:No! And it's pretty incredible. And I don't want to jinx myself, but isn't it crazy that in almost four years of food blogging---eating all kinds of weird food in weird places and cooking things I don't know how to cook--I haven't gotten sick? Ok, now I'm giving myself what Jewish people call a kanuhura. I'll probably barf up the sushi I just had for lunch.

DSC: Have you ever lost a friend because of something you did in the kitchen?

TAG:Remember that story I told about my dad and the fish? Well I had a really dirty friend and I put some chlorine in her sherbet. I'd tell you more, but I don't want to incriminate myself further.

DSC: Thanks for giving all us dirty folk nightmares!

TAG: Thanks for having me!!


Blogger bess said...

Please, please get one of those can openers that makes the top of the can into a lid...safety-lid lifter-thingy causes fewer cuts, if any.
I've been enjoying your work in Bust magazine!

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never a dull moment when Ayun's in the kitchen!

Although I had to pause for a moment when you said that you never got sick from anything you cooked, and reflect on a chapter from "No Touch Monkey" where I vaguely remember you having *ahem* issues with your digestion. I thought it was from food poisoning but when I went to look it up it was not, in fact, food but a mosquito that felled you with malaria, of all rotten stinking things. Sorry.

Anywhoo, good interview here...any food writer that can take his foibles in stride and keep on going...making us laugh along the way...is tops in my book.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Can you believe I just found this post now, like nearly a year later? I was tromping around Food Buzz and found it.

You're hilarious! Now, I'll read something of yours from this year...

12:57 AM  

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