Looking through my archives, I found this Bob's Little Acre that introduces the cooking avatar "Chef Guevara," which I am now using as the title of my cooking column. I thought it would be useful to run it in this space to explain the genesis of the Chef Guevara concept. rfw
Spring! And here we are hunkered down at Bob’s Little Acre with a spatula in one hand and a machine gun in the other, holding off los federales and sautéeing onions in olive oil. Beware, pigs! We are armed and dangerous and making a nice chicken soup.
Yes, amigos, we are back in guerilla mode, grinning rakishly around the fat cigar clenched in our teeth as we wrestle injustice, stare down armies, and mince shallots. As we look death squarely in the eye and spit contemptuously in its face. As we clap a white hat on our gleaming black locks and proclaim:
Chef Guevara rides into battle!
Yes, “chef” with an F. It is our new alter-ego, spawned comic-book-style on Christmas Eve, when, as a meek, mild-mannered matron, we were hopelessly conflicted about mashed potatoes. Dare one peel potatoes ahead of time? we dithered in housewifely distress. Would they turn slimy if held overnight? Must, therefore, one rise selflessly before dawn to peel in order to assure one’s family a perfect holiday mashed potato experience?
We could think of no one to ask. Or rather, we could think of no one who would not answer: “Are you on drugs?” We are the sort of cook who starts mashed potatoes by planting spuds the previous March, but it has not escaped our attention that everyone else we know would solve the problem by buying a box of potato flakes, or ordering a pizza.
Which is why we turned to the Web, and became radicalized.
Go to Google and type in “peeling potatoes,” and the search engine will thoughtfully provide the suggested completion: “ahead of time.” You see, you will not be the first person to ask that question. Follow through, and you will find yourself at cooking sites so hard-core, they make us look like we live on Twinkies.
Here is one quote we found between snippets of potato-peeling advice from our fellow kitchen gods and goddesses, our spiritual brethren and sistern who post on these warrior-chef sites: “To reclaim control over one's food, to take it back from industry and science, is no small thing; indeed, in our time, cooking from scratch qualifies as subversive.” – Michael Pollan.
“Subversive.” Goodness. Doesn’t that have cachet?
In our case, anyway, we always meant to battle injustice and topple empires but somehow got distracted with organic gardening, not to mention our Unified Biscuit Theory (“Don’t leave out the buttermilk”).
How lovely to think we haven’t really copped out! That though we are no longer a wild-eyed revolutionary but a middle-aged matron peeling spuds sullenly at the sink, with every jab of the paring knife we are actually striking another blow against the insidious foe that has poisoned our children, strangled our farmers and suborned our Congress.
Death to Big Food! Quivering with revolutionary zeal, we leapt from our keyboard to attack those spuds, lips curled in a sneer at the very idea of boxed ultra-processed running-dog-capitalist potato flakes.
Boxes? We doan’ need no stinkin’ boxes!
Then we checked out the movie “Food, Inc.,” and got really mad.
The movie is based on the work of the above-quoted Michael Pollan, whose books we have discussed previously in this space. Pollan points out that humanity has changed the way it eats more in the last 50 years than it did in the last 10,000 – with unbeautiful results that you can witness yourself by popping into your local Wal-Mart on any given Saturday night.
There you will see people too fat to walk cruising the aisles in modified electric golf carts as they fill their buggies with boxed products laden with high-fructose corn syrup, grains bleached into uselessness and chemical additives so copious they must be identified by number.
These toxic substances are all manufactured by a handful of processors and meat conglomerates that have made so much money pandering to our biologically hardwired yearning for salt, sugar and fat – and our bone-laziness about cooking –that they can spend millions lobbying elected officials to protect their monopolies, and to ignore the fact that they are, incidentally, knocking us off.
“Food, Inc.” points out that one in three American children currently develops type 2 diabetes. In minority children, the statistic goes up to two in three. Childhood obesity is even rifer than the other kind. E. coli and hypertension –
Sorry. We have made these points before, and did not mean to get so worked up. We will give you a moment to wipe our spit off your face, and proceed more calmly.
The fact is, this is a war, fought, as most wars are, for profit, and Big Food has been winning it for decades, to the point that most young people – even the ones who work in grocery stores – are gently puzzled by just about everything that doesn’t come in a container. Locally, rutabagas throw Ingle’s cashiers into helpless bewilderment, and one recently failed to recognize collard greens.
The good news is, it’s easy and fun to fight back! We have always recognized that growing a garden was an act of defiance against The Man, but now it seems that simply throwing together a nifty little homemade dinner qualifies as gastro-guerilla warfare.
So arriba arriba! Once more into the kitchen, compadres! You gotta cook hard if you want to end war and stuff. We don’t care if we fall as long as someone else picks up our spoon and keeps on stirring.
And by the way, it is perfectly all right to peel your potatoes the night before, as long as you keep them in the refrigerator covered with cold water.
Viva la revolucion! And be careful not to add too much salt.