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Savage Skillet Dinner with Tara

by Tara Davis

Confessions of a Culinary Professional

There are some things to which people in my line of business may or may not admit.  We are, after all, prideful and tough. Untouchable.  

But for me, sharing is the motivation behind most of what I do in the kitchen. So today, for better or worse, I choose to share a few insights, true for me, but not necessarily everyone.

Here goes nothin’.

I let other people or machines harvest artichoke hearts and lump crab meat for me.   Every time, without fail.

I have no qualms about using canned tomatoes and beans for lots of things. But not everything.

As much as I do cook for myself, I often genuinely love letting someone else cook for me.  (That usually means taking myself to a decent lunch or dinner, but a homecooked grilled cheese makes me even happier).

I occasionally eat ramen, and SPAM, and fried catfish, and wallow joyfully in every second of it.

Waffle House makes my heart pitter pat.

My parents’ cooking is still often the best food ever.

Sometimes I eat salad straight from the bag.  By which I mean, I dump in cheese, croutons, dressing and grape tomatoes, shake it up and stab my fork fearlessly into the cellophane.

I have worked in multiple high end, upscale, fancy pants establishments, and while I appreciate a beautiful plate, I hate “tweezer food,” and most food that drips of pretention.  In fact, I find it so off putting, I am often inspired to go cook chili or dirty rice or a sloppy sandwich that requires you to hold your elbows out to the sides to eat it in protest.

I never add nutmeg to my bechamel (white sauce).  Ever.  While I love your enthusiasm for food, watching Food Network does not make you an expert. Respect for the years of honing this craft would be greatly appreciated.

I want you to be happy, but I know I can’t please everyone.  I made my peace with that a long time ago.

Coming home at the end of a 16 hour day, reeking of the ugly process that produces beautiful dishes brings me absurd amounts of satisfaction and joy.

I wish people would let me feed them – and their kids- things they are convinced they hate.  It wouldn’t be a rewiring of your palate, just a new experience.  Try it, you’ll like it.  Or not.

I too often spare my clients my funky flavor preferences (believe it or not), but I sometimes stubbornly sneak something into menus that asks them to be a little more open minded.  It almost always goes over smashingly.

Given my way, I would include spicy heat in almost everything. But don’t worry.  I don’t.

I totally judge you for using canned chicken, gravy mix and instant mashed potatoes.  Just don’t. And if you do, you are on my list, buddy.  That being said,  as demonstrated in this weekly article, I recognize the need for decent shortcuts in cooking.  Don’t be afraid of them.

I know when you’re lying about being “allergic” to certain ingredients.  Just be honest about your preferences.  We are all allowed to dislike things. I won’t make you feel bad or bully you into anything.  I also won’t feel disrespected. Neither will those with real food allergies.

I know life happens – I know you work, go to school, raise kids, and generally survive the world day to day.  I also know you often feel guilty about not cooking dinner, or big holiday spreads,  or for your child’s class party.   What I wish, more than anything, is that you could stop feeling that guilt and let me, or someone in my line of work, help you out, do that work for you now and then, and know you deserve it.  It isn’t a cheat!  Know you are already enough for showing up, working hard, and caring, without having to milk the cows and grow the corn and weave your own clothes.  If you do that, amazing!!! If you don’t, you still rock.  And we are here for you.  It’s what we do.

I know when you’re lying about being “allergic” to certain ingredients.  Just be honest about your preferences.  We are all allowed to dislike things. I won’t make you feel bad or bully you into anything.  I also won’t feel disrespected. Neither will those with real food allergies.

I know life happens – I know you work, go to school, raise kids, and generally survive the world day to day.  I also know you often feel guilty about not cooking dinner, or big holiday spreads,  or for your child’s class party.   What I wish, more than anything, is that you could stop feeling that guilt and let me, or someone in my line of work, help you out, do that work for you now and then, and know you deserve it.  It isn’t a cheat!  Know you are already enough for showing up, working hard, and caring, without having to milk the cows and grow the corn and weave your own clothes.  If you do that, amazing!!! If you don’t, you still rock.  And we are here for you.  It’s what we do.

 

 

 

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