Chef Wanted: Low Pay, Few Benefits Other Than Resume Material

Help Wanted: Personal Chef

Please supply references.

Personal chef and grocery shopper.

Prepare regular meals (including late-night snacks) and keep the pantry and fridge full.

Must not cook meals that look like those on Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef, and Chopped.

No bloody rare steak.

No puree to decorate plate.

May be required to produce two dinners each night, standard Southern cooking for my wife and Seafood and Cajun dishes for me.

May need a pickup truck to haul beverages from the store to the house (sparkling water, bottled water, Coke, Wine, Scotch). The chef will be allowed two drinks per day but must supply his/her own mixers.

No accommodations other than an old chicken house.

Chefs who have worked at the sous chef level or higher at any or all of the following New Orleans restaurants will be given an automatic second interview: Brennans, Antoine’s, and Galatoires. Experience at the Biltmore Estate Restaurant in Asheville, NC is also desirable.

Chef will be terminated immediately if any dinner looks like it came from IHOP  or Golden Corral.

We eat off of TV trays while watching TV. Try to adapt to that.

Training at a top-of-the-line culinary school is a must.

We do not want to see any meals that originated in the home-economics tradition of the 1940s and 1950s.

Note: We measure the levels of alcohol in all bottles nightly.

No girlfriends or boyfriends allowed.

Easy work, we think, in a farm environment in NW Georgia. Your resume may include the fact that you were the personal chef of the author of the Florida Folk Magic series.

–Malcolm

Masterchef-style cooking drives me nuts

We watched the recent “Masterchef – Back to Win” TV series because it’s fun watching “home cooks” trying to create modern Gordon Ramsay-style meals in 45 minutes. Some of the meals looked interesting, even good enough that I would try them out if I had a chance and didn’t have to pay $200 for a meal at some fru-fru restaurant.

It comes down to this: my mother and grandmother cooked midwestern-style and southern-style food the way those dishes were prepared in the 1940s and 1950s in home economics courses or as presented in cookbooks like the Joy of Cooking.

  • Among other things, this means that a meal was composed of various elements that were placed separately on the plate rather than as something called a “dish” in which the elements are placed in an artistically assembled thing that’s viewed as one item–meaning stuff is piled top of each other.
  • I generally refuse to eat rare meat even though Ramsay and the other judges consider anything cooked longer than rare to be ruined. I don’t know when rare became the default cooking level when, to me, it’s basically still raw.
  • Whatever I order, I don’t want it placed on top of or next to some horrid-looking puree. This stuff looks (and tastes) like wallpaper paste and makes me want to pass a law that blenders cannot be used in food preparation.
  • If I order meat and asparagus, I don’t want the meat sitting on top of the asparagus. Why the hell would I want each bite of steak to include a piece of asparagus on the fork?
  • I love potatoes, grits, and other starchy stuff, but definitely don’t want it piled on top of the meat.
  • I also don’t want a handful of mixed greens thrown on top of the whole shebang and called a salad. Sautéd arugula is not a salad.
  • Random crap strewn around the plate (connected by colorful smears of puree) and called a garnish and/or an artistic presentation of the “dish” is horse hockey. Place the stuff in small serving dishes so those who want it can dump it on their entrées.
  • I believe that if chefs want to ruin food they should do it in the privacy of their own homes rather than serving it to others as something special for $200 a plate.

I know I’m out of sync with the kind of meals that TV’s Masterchef and Hell’s Kitchen promote, but I like what I like and would rather have a sack of Louisiana chicken and dirty rice from Popeye’s than the swill I see on these purported upper-crust cooking shows.

–Malcolm

I love spicey soups but need an Alka Seltzer chaser

When I came inside from yard mowing around lunchtime today, I poured a glass of Celtic Ale. Robbie, our indoor/outdoor cat who thinks anything on my TV tray belongs to him, tried to get the glass away from me. So Lesa poured a little in a saucer and he turned his nose up at it like that wasn’t the same stuff I had the glass.

What he does like is the really hot (spicey) Jazzy Jambalaya soup from Campbell’s. I have it with late-night movies but often need an Alka Seltzer as soon as I finish it. If I leave any in the bowl, Robbie jumps up on my TV tray and licks it all up. No chaser. No hairballs. No crazy behavior. What’s wrong with this kitty?

According to Campbell’s website, “This ready-to-eat soup is loaded with antibiotic-free chicken meat, Andouille sausage, rice, and cooked ham, plus veggies and a mixture of flavor-packed spices. Let’s not forget: our fill-you-up soup is also blended with a tasty cayenne pepper sauce that makes it a must-try for any Cajun food fanatic!”

I love Cajun food, so the soup works for me even though you probably won’t find it on the menu at the Atchafalaya Restaurant in New Orleans. They also serve Creole food, but I won’t hold that against them!

At one time, our family had a share or two of stock in Campbells. So, whenever somebody asked if we had anything to do with the soup company, we could shrug and say, “But of course, we do own stock.” But that’s long gone, so I can mention the soup without it being a conflict of interest.

Malcolm

Labor Day Weekend means RAIN

  • Happy 4th of July Weekend. If you live near me–and I feel safer knowing you probably don’t–then you’re having rain with more to come. After some of the news we’ve been seeing, I should probably say, “Rain, well that figures.” 
  • Note to those of you in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. It’s past time for y’all to declare independence from England, the U.K, the empire, or whatever it is these days. Don’t wait.
  • Author Keith Willis, a long-time friend of mine, will soon be releasing the next book in his swashbuckling, dragon-filled Knights of Kilbourne fantasy series. Stolen Knight, the 4th in the series, will be out soon. Keith and I met when I was an instructor and he was a student at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. He was better at being a student than I was at being an instructor. My excuse is that I got the job a few days before the first class and had to move down to Georgia from Minnesota in my half-broken town Jeep. No time to prepare for the kinds of courses I wanted to teach.
  • A few days ago, I wrote a post about author Thomas Savage.  At least one reader has commented on the autobiography’s high price. That, unfortunately, is the way of things for University Press books. I don’t understand the thinking unlesss it comes from ther expectation that the book will be sold to other colleges and univerities with plenty of money. I meant to suggest a book you might start with if you’re new to Savage. A good place to start, I think, is with The Power of the Dog which Jane Campion made into a film by the same name in 2021.
  • For those of you who keep wanting to make stuff like chickpea salad, I should remind you that I don’t consider that kind of thing to be food, especially for a holiday weekend. It reminds me of the kind of stuff the cooks make on the TV show “Chopped.” Look at those judges for the show and ask them if they think the chefs who compete on the show are really cooking normal food. Hmm, I don’t think the judges are that blurry in “real life.”
  • Speaking of food, I’m preparing Kraft Mac & Cheese of supper. I’m glad the company has finally updated their packaging to display the product as we refer to it. If they’d asked me, I would have suggested they add the words “comfort food” somewhere on the box. 

Malcolm

Tonight’s Meal: Mac & Cheese out of a Box

I have no idea whether MasterChef and MasterChef Junior are what they seem or whether the contestants (especially the kids) are shown recipes when faced with cooking something they’ve never seen before. I suspect so, though that’s not talked about on the show. Whatever happens, I feel pretty inept in making meals like mac & cheese by dumping the ingredients out of a box with the word “Kraft on it.

My mother made it from scratch. My wife and I started out making a lot of stuff from scratch but slowly stopped doing that when it became apparent that buying all the ingredients for the scratch version costs more than the stuff in a box–like pre-made pie crusts, for example.

Somewhere around here, I probably still have a copy of my mother’s cookbook The Joy of Cooking. We do have cookbooks but seldom look at them because it’s easier to look up recipes on the Internet. Not that they’re certified by Gordon Ramsay and the other judges on MasterChef or Chopped.

Seems to me that as we get older, we get addicted to easy comfort food rather than spending the afternoon in the kitchen cooking something that would look good on an expensive restaurant’s menu.

I don’t think my wife and I are unique. I don’t know very many people who eat anything fancy unless it’s, say–their anniversary and they’ve gone out to eat. And usually, that means a place like Outback or Applebees rather than a place with any Michelin stars.

Perhaps the easy-to-find recipes on the Internet will keep all of us from becoming totally inept in the kitchen. Meanwhile, all I need are servants, We would eat a lot better. How about you?

–Malcolm

My Vietnam War novel “At Sea” will be free on Kindle from June 1 through June 5.

I’m addicted to Cajun food and it’s my parents’ fault

Our family went on a trip to New Orleans when I was in junior high school. I was already in love with the blues, but the food there was an epiphany. Living in North Florida, we already had plenty of seafood, much of which we caught, but I had no idea how much food could be “enhanced” before we made a tour of all the “in” places to eat in and around the French Quarter.

I’m the only one in the family who became addicted, so I have no volunteers when I say, “Who’s up for Cajun tonight?” or “Anyone want to go on a road trip to Louisiana?” So, I’m stuck with nothing better to do than sneak over to a Popeye’s for chicken and dirty rice when I’m out running errands.

Don’t forget the cornbread

Needless to say, yesterday’s post about Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasonings wasn’t a fluke. I could live on that kind of coolness–or, perhaps I should say “hotness.”

I should mention here and now that Creole food is okay, but it doesn’t quite cut it when I have a choice and can order Cajun food. And far be it from me to try to explain the difference here except to say that I take offense when people serve gumbo without any gumbo in it. Gumbo needs, of course, okra, not the filé powder people keep wanting to substitute. Above all else, Cajun is rustic!

I could live off of Cajun Jambalaya (unlike the Creole version, it has no tomatoes in it).  The Internet lists a few other ideas if you’re new at this:

  • Gumbo.
  • Boiled crawfish.
  • Pecan pie.
  • Boudin sausage.
  • Shrimp and grits.
  • Wild duck.
  • Alligator.

Hungry yet, Cher?

Malcolm

Man arrested for slapping his mama

Junction City Texas, April 19, 2022, Star-Gazer News Service–Joe Smith was arrested here today for slapping his mama silly while cooking up a frying pan of dirty rice with a tablespoon of hot blend Slap Ya Mama™ cajun seasoning for extra excitement.

According to police, Smith’s Cajun cookbook included a potentially apocryphal story that the seasoning sold by the Walker family of Ville Platte, Louisiana, made food so good you were supposed to slap your mama for never cooking anything that great.

According to the Walker Family, Anthony “TW” Walker (who invented the blend) has never slapped his mama, never even considered it. In reality, according to TW, ”When you use this seasoning, the food tastes so good, you’ll receive a loving slap on the back and a kiss on the cheek for creating such a great tasting Cajun dish.”

Smith’s attorney, Aurelie Jones said that Smith missed the memo and/or the footnote in the recipe about mama slapping.

“I thought I had to slap my mama just after mincing the chicken gizzards or the recipe wouldn’t work,” said Smith. “That mojo was the conjure behind the cooking.”

Smith’s father, Wesson, said that if his boy had been cooking Slap Yo’ Daddy BBQ, his son would be in the morgue because “Nobody slaps me and gets away with it. My wife Irene thinks the dirty rice faux pas was kind of funny after she iced down her face.”

The family is pressing assault and battery charges to “teach Joe a lesson.”

Jones told reporters that the dirty rice was spectacular, “though not worth jail time.”

-30-

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

What’s wrong with the last drop?

I grew up on Maxwell House coffee and still use it today. It outsold everyone else until the 1980s and now has become the brand everyone likes to make fun of. When I was a kid, it was made in a percolator. Now I use a drip coffee maker. (A Mr. Coffee, if you must know.)

I won’t touch a French press (too much trouble) and think Keurig coffee tastes awful. As for Starbucks, the prices are absurd and the culture of the whole shebang has elite written all over it. Barista? I think not. Just pour the damn coffee out of a Cory coffee maker rather than making a religion out of it.

Okay, I’m out of sync with the times, coffee-wise, and darned proud of my Maxwell House and Golden Cup (Waffle House) heritage.

My brothers and I always thought Maxwell House had a catchy slogan in “Good to the last drop.” Yet, we perceived a flaw. To us, saying “good to the last drop” implied that the coffee was great UNTIL you got to the last drop. We presumed the last drop was in some way swill. Otherwise, the slogan would have been “Good to and including the last drop.”

Or, maybe cultured people never drank the last drop because doing so looked greedy and needy and was frowned upon. If that was the case, they never had any idea what–if any–evils lurked in the last drop.

Now that Maxwell House is part of the giant Kraft Foods conglomerate, the question of the safety and goodness of the last drop will probablty never be answered and I’m not going to start licking the bottom of my cup to find out. When we were kids, we were told not to lick the bottom of our cup/glass/stein/tankard/Mason jar. Doing so was unseemly, almost as bad as loudly crunching up the ice from a sweet tea glass.

Teddy Roosevelt, who purportedly was the first person in the universe to say Maxwell House is good to the last drop was probably too busy to ever drink that last drop. So, everything else in the cup was all he knew. Well, bully!

Malcolm

Malcolm writes his novels while drinking Maxwell House coffee and certifies that his books are good to the final word.

 

Rare steak? I’m sending it back

Perfectly cooked? Ha! It hasn’t been cooked.

When I was a kid, everyday people ordered steaks medium to medium well. Now, that’s considered gauche, according to the food network. Just ask the bosses on Masterchef, Hell’s Kitchen, and Chopped. When they check the steak and find it to be nearly raw, they say, “Perfectly cooked.”

In a pig’s eye.

I could tell Chef Ramsay that the USDA says the safe cooking temperature for streak is 145˚. Basically, that computes to medium. Apparently the food network chefs have been brainwashed–but to what end?

I think it’s a “beautiful people” thing. Just look at how the people are dressed who come to a Hell’s Kitchen dinner. Runway ready, I would say. I haven’t seen people dressed like that since the last time I watched the Oscars. And that’s been a while. But they look less attractive with blood dripping from their mouths, pooling on their plates, and spattering across the tablecloths like a crime scene. That’s one hell of a fashion statement.

I feel like I should print out this chart wheneve I go to a steak house:

I doubt it would help. My simple rule of thumb is that if the color of the steak matches the color of my red wine, the steak is undercooked. I’ve had multiple arguments with servers about the doneness of my steaks, but then I didn’t have the chart with me. Usually, couple of thugs with meat cleavers come out of the kitchen and say, “Something wrong with your food, you uncultured oaf.”

“It’s fine,” I say, before putting a hex on the thugs.

Then the chef comes out in full splendour and says he has his standards but the customer is always right. Then, and only then, does my steak come back perfectly cooked. (They probably popped it into a microwave.)

Frankly, it’s easier to order something other than beef and avoid the arguments.

-Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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My characters don’t eat raw meat.

The slow cooker blues

The blues don’t come from how great the pot roast tastes after it simmers for eight hours in a slow cooker. The blues come from the fact that after several hours or so, the entire house smells like supper is ready. This turns into an afternoon of snacking to keep one’s hunger at bay. Then, when it’s really time to eat, you’re no longer hungry.

Our house smells great right now because I peeled carrots and potatoes and quartered onions at the crack of dawn. I added a bunch of secret herbs and spices. I won’t tell you what those are because if you try them and don’t like them, y’all might turn into an angry mob. One tip: the cup of Port wine is what makes it work so well, and that’s odd because I really don’t like Port.

The inventor’s specs

The trick, I think, is to keep your afternoon snacks small–say, one Dorito or one Babybel® Cheese round out of the mesh bag or one chocolate chip cookie. Wash this down with about ten glasses of quality wine (preferably red though certainly not Port or bottom shelf Chianti).

We bought our first real Crock-Pot from Sunbeam (now Rival) in the 1970s when they were suddenly the best thing since fire. After a while, they became pas·sé, and those who still used them never told anybody since they’d be mocked as badly as those who admitted they were still drinking Mateus Rosé wine.

Now that their popularity has returned along with other time-saving devices aimed at families where both spouses have fulltime jobs, I can admit here in my blog that I’m making pot roast in a slow cooker (a real Crock-Pot, by the way).

Unfortunately, writing this post didn’t help with the hunger problem. Somewhere I read that every time you take off the lid to a Crock-Pot to check on what’s happening, you have to add 30 minutes to the cooking time. I have no idea whether that’s true, so I can even pretend to be tasting things (for quality control) the way I do when I make stew in the Dutch oven.

And it’s a bit early to be pouring a glass of wine.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel Mountain Song is free on Kindle.