Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Close enough

I feel bad -- in hindsight it seems like I was picking on Mr. Adequate in yesterday's post. I'm not, really, because he is like me. I am one of him. Giving one hundred and ten percent is something I have never, ever been accused of. Ever. Except maybe during childbirth, and that was under duress. My guiding philosophy is best described as 'do what it takes to satisfy the requirement, and even then, only if it makes sense and/or someone might notice.' I'm guessing Mr. Adequate is much the same way, except maybe when it comes to playing Guitar Hero.

Apparently there are people who feel otherwise. I think they do it just to make me feel bad.

For example, yesterday I was reading one of my favorite food blogs. Carol is cooking her way through the 'Alinea Cookbook' by Grant Achatz. I find her blog fascinating because I have absolutely no desire to make any recipe that requires that level of rigor. And she's doing The Whole Thing!

Here's what Carol wrote:
...I sliced three cloves of elephant garlic into 1/8" slices, milk-blanched and rinsed them three times, then let them cool....

Three times? Heat milk in pan, blanch garlic slices in milk, pull them out, rinse them, toss the milk, and repeat twice more?

No. Fucking. Way. I don't care if they taste like Zeus's left nipple smeared with foie gras. It ain't happening.

In the final dish, would anyone notice if those garlic slices were blanched only twice? If not, would anyone* be able to discern between twice-blanched and singly-blanched slices? What if you blanched them for 10 (20, 30) extra seconds the first time, or used more milk? Are you sure?

If you want me to thrice-blanch garlic slices, you need to tell me why three is the magic number and how absolutely unacceptable the mono-blanched slices are. And then you have to prove that the average consumer of recipes containing milk-blanched garlic slices would notice, much less care. What? You serve mere twice-milk-blanched elephant garlic slices? Inconceivable! Grab your coat, Pilar, we're leaving.

Known as the Bay Leaf Principle, the formal version of my 'close enough' philosophy was developed in response to the question: Given an otherwise fully-flavored soup or stew, would anyone notice if the single bay leaf was left out?

The short answer is "No."

That, my friends, is why I have never achieved any level beyond basic competence in my endeavors.

And that's why Carol is my hero, in the way the members of Cirque du Soleil are heroes. They achieve things requiring a level of precision I have no desire to strive toward, but I sure do appreciate it when they do it. Hey, that sounds like the Scrubbing Bubbles Method of Management: They do it so you don't have to.

Works for me.

* Other than Grant Achatz, and other culinary geniuses. I'm sure they could tell. Right? Please tell me they aren't sitting back laughing their asses off....


  1. Wait...you've been serving me BAY-FREE SOUP!!! I feel...violated.



  2. I'm not even sure what "blanch" is. Wasn't that a character on The Golden Girls?

    Obviously, I'm not going to be cooking my way through the Alinea Cookbook (whatever the hell THAT is) anytime soon.

  3. You know me-e-e:

    Open one can ____, dump in pan.
    Open two cans _____, dump in pan.
    Add one bag frozen ___, simmer five minutes. Add cheese.


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