Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The 34 most annoying things you have to do in the kitchen

I cook almost every day, usually multiple meals per day. I love cooking, but these are the things that make me wish I lived in a slave state, in order of most to least abominable:
  1. Picking bits of eggshell out of the egg white (this might top the list of most annoying things, period)
  2. Squeezing the water out of frozen spinach (I don't think I will ever do this again, in fact. Fuck you frozen spinach.)
  3. Preparing fresh artichokes (Fake out! I've never even done this because I just can't deal)
  4. Cleaning the stove after you've boiled over the rice
  5. Cleaning a burnt pan
  6. Greasing and flouring a cake pan (thank god I never have to do this again)
  7. Getting the corn silk off an ear of corn
  8. Peeling and chopping ginger
  9. Getting the bones out of salmon
  10. Flipping a frittata 
  11. Washing a mesh strainer by hand
  12. Washing a box grater by hand, assuming you've used it to grate cheese
  13. Cleaning a blender
  14. Washing dishes in a glove that has a slit in in, from the mesh strainer, box grater or blender no doubt
  15. Washing and drying lettuce (I don't have a salad spinner)
  16. Getting a pan you rarely use out of its inaccessible corner, and putting it back up again (tie)
  17. Chopping jalapenos and other foods that contain hazardous chemicals
  18. Peeling apples for applesauce (I feel like this gives me arthritis, or reminds me I have it)
  19. Peeling peaches
  20. Peeling/cutting raw winter squash
  21. Salting and draining something in the sink before you can even start cooking with it (thank god I don't eat eggplant anymore)
  22. Trimming brussels sprouts
  23. Pitting olives
  24. Chopping carrots
  25. Cleaning mushrooms
  26. Peeling garlic
  27. Peeling hard-boiled eggs that aren't ready to be peeled
  28. Pureeing soup in multiple batches (Actually doing anything in multiple batches. Batches must die!)
  29. Picking herbs off the stems
  30. Chopping raw bacon (and everything associated with opening the package and wrapping the rest of the bacon back up, which gets slimy grease all over everything)
  31. Refilling the pepper mill
  32. Making coffee and all associated activities (John did this for years, but he stopped drinking coffee recently, so if I want any it's all on me)
  33. Moving the racks in the oven when it's already preheated
  34. Unloading the dishwasher
God, cooking sucks.

Also, making this list has forced me to realize that vegetables bring more suffering into the world than meat.


  1. i don't mind most (all?) of these at all. in fact, just the opposite, i find this sort of work very relaxing, b/c a) i can turn my brain off, which is taxed pretty hard for my job, and b) i know the work is productive, ie good is definitely going to come out of it, and in many cases it "has to be done" so there's no second-guessing about time-wasting etc.

    i feel like people split into two camps here, people who strongly dislike and people who are neutral or slightly like.

  2. oh yeah, also, an interesting thing to consider is what does it mean to "love cooking" when apparently you dislike much of the basic mechanics of cooking. which part do you actually like, like eating yummy food, or the sensation of nourishing people, or what.

  3. I listed 34 tasks out of like, an order of infinity of tasks. Mushrooms are annoying to clean (even if you rinse them, which tends to discolor them, little bits of dirt stick to the surface so you usually have to wipe off every one). Brussels sprouts are annoying to prepare because you have to trim the little butt end off each sprout. But the vast majority of fruits and vegetables are not difficult or annoying to wash and chop. For example broccoli is pleasurable to chop. So are other firm vegetables like cabbage and potatoes -- as long as they're not so firm as to require leaning on the knife with your full body weight or straining one's wrists (see winter squash).

    But for the most part, it's the actual *cooking* I enjoy, not the prep work. I assume this is true for most chefs, because sous chefs do most of the chopping and prep work. I like sauteeing garlic and onions, deglazing the pan, searing fish, seasoning along the way, tasting and adjusting, watching ingredients transform into food. And more than that I like the creative element of throwing things together to make a finished dish (I usually do not cook from recipes). The eating and serving parts are nice but it's the part where you actually start combining ingredients that I like best.

  4. re knives, do you sharpen them often, that can make a pretty big diff.

    re cooking, fair nuff but i think prep is "cooking" as much as anything else is cooking, i don't see as sharp distinction between chopping carrots and deglazing pans (neither is rocket science).

  5. LOL! You nailed this list. Fuck you spinach, indeed.

    Sometimes, cooking prep can be relaxing if I'm in a good mood and just wanting to putter around. And I have wine. But if I'm tired after a long day? One rogue piece of eggshell and I'll snap.

  6. I probably don't sharpen them enough, but when I go into other people's kitchens their knives are never as sharp/heavy as mine. I do it semi regularly (or rather get John to do it because by God I don't want to do everything, and I've taken on coffee!).

    I never said one was rocket science, I just said I find some of the processes more pleasurable than others. But again, I don't dislike chopping or prep work in general, just the very specific tasks outlined above. Most people have things that annoy them, you're just one of those people who enjoys common annoyances to be perverse.

  7. Josephine! Voice of reason. ;) Agreed that a glass of wine (and music) makes prep work infinitely more enjoyable.

    I just wish somebody would invent a tool that gets eggshell out of egg white easily. Why the hell is that so hard?!

  8. P.S. To Allen the annoying thing about carrots is that they're round. Just saying.

  9. P.S. Part 2: Whenever I hear men say something like "I enjoy washing dishes" or "I don't mind cleaning" I often think it's probably because they do it 1/10 as much as the woman in the house. (Sorry for the "reverse sexism," but that's been true in the houses I've lived in.) So may I posit that you do not cook every day, and therefore have more patience for small annoyances? Again, this may not be true in your case since I happen to know you like airports and flat tires and stuff.

    Also, I was aware of the irony of my list, hence the contradicting myself at the end.

  10. no, historically i definitely do cook often (approx every day), at least as often as my wife. if anything, i have taken the lead in the past, although recently she has been cooking more, bringing us roughly even.

    i do my share of the laundry, my share of the dishes, oh and wait what about all the "typically male" shit necessary to keep a house running that i take the lead on too. oh wait and yeah i am running my own business too and i'm sure not doing it for laughs. i totally call bullshit on any claim that i have more patience for any sort of annoyance due to any sort of excess time relative to my wife. that is complete and utter crap and totally unfounded.

    someone as sensitive about sexism as you shouldn't be so flip about reverse sexism, esp based on weak anecdotal evidence which you never accept when used in the other direction. my wife and i operate as a team and we both have plenty to do thank you, and yes, i still like peeling carrots.

  11. To echo Allen, I actually like all those potentially-annoying activities for the effect they have on my brain. Not that I "turn it off" in the same way, but I find that chopping and washing and grating and peeling and so forth helps me "think," kind of how walking helps me think. It also helps that Martin and I split kitchen stuff almost exactly 50-50.

    Good list, though.

  12. Read my comment again, it wasn't really that flip and I fully acknowledged that I was making assumptions based on my own experience and that it might not be true in your case.

    Your whole string of comments seems pretty hostile and superior. (Like wow, it must be rough to be so brilliant that repetitive menial tasks are required to finally get the wheels to stop spinning. Guess I'd never be bored if I weren't so dumb.) What gives?

  13. All I have to say is: Loved it! You're beautiful!

    Also, chopping raisins is pretty much the worst thing ever. They stick to the knife and gum up the board.

    Over & out,

  14. I'm a frequent cook and definitely sympathize! Sometimes you have a vision of a dish in your head -- and all the terrific smells that will accompany it -- and it's horrible getting through the mindless tasks before the magic can start.

    Your #26 would definitely be my #1, with the addition of chopping the garlic. Smelly fingers!

    Have you tried using an empty eggshell to pick shell bits from your whites? That's my mom's trick.

  15. Sandra: ;) I've heard you should oil your knife before chopping raisins for less sticking.

    Steph: I also hate how the garlic makes your fingers sticky. I have heard about the eggshell trick but it seems like going in with the eggshell means you end up scooping out all the white too? Need to practice that one.

  16. Uh largely agreed but I just leave eggshell bits in. Probably safe, contributes dietary calcium, and they don't stand out in the finished dish.

  17. "Probably" safe? Wish I could get a definitive answer on that, Google seems more and more worthless these days (I don't consider Yahoo! Answers a reliable source....)

  18. Good list, Elisa. I'm with you on burned pans. I never use frozen spinach. If I'm to lazy to de-branch a bunch, I just buy a bag of them fresh. I love it when they hit a little hot oil and shrink. For artichokes, I just cut across the tops with a bread knife and steam. For cleaning blenders, I usually just add dish soap and water and blend it clean, but it doesn't *always* work. I don't do soup batch pureeing anymore, now that I have an immersion blender.

    I always spill as many peppercorns as I get in the mill.

  19. I just got an immersion blender for Christmas. Finally! Used it two nights ago.

    I always buy the prewashed spinach baby these days.

    And I've found that if you *immediately* put the blender in the sink full of soapy water, it's pretty easy to clean. But if you let smoothie hang around in it for half an hour, you'll see strawberry seeds for days to come.

  20. And I meant "baby spinach" -- wasn't calling you baby, baby.

  21. didn't intend to be hostile and superior in my comments, so sorry if they came off that way. i don't consider myself brilliant, and anyway i don't see how that would relate to turning one's mind off while chopping carrots. you don't have be einstein to like watching wheel of fortune.

    i do think your sexist post was over the line however, in multiple ways. it got personal; it avoided the substance of the argument and instead attacked my credibility, and worse on erroneous grounds (not only do i cook every day, i've worked as a prep chef in a restaurant); and finally, it was blatantly sexist, which was frankly pretty surprising given your sensitivity to that issue.

    how does this sound to you?

    i just love it when women say "i don't mind getting out of the house and making a little money." i mean, in my experience they do it like 1/2 as much as the men in their lives, be it in terms of time spent, pressure endured, or compensation received. hey, sorry 'bout the sexism, but it's been true in the households i've lived in! oh well.

  22. but anyway, getting back to the substance, if it is interesting at all at this point, the reason i made my initial comments is that one way i think about endeavors is in some sort of holistic sense in which one becomes intimate with the materials, physical processes, procedures, "craft", etc etc of the thing. as a writer for example i am sure you can relate to liking the feel and texture of heavy paper, the marks left by ink pens, the tactile sensations of a typewriter, fonts, books, etc etc etc. my default presumption would be that writers would like these things way more than other people, even if arguably one not need love these things to crank out some good writing.

    so, to me it was a real juxtoposition for you to say "i really love cooking, but..." and then have a really pretty long list of things you don't like, which all to me look like: cooking. so i thought, maybe there is some particular aspect she really likes more, like entertaining, or eating, or whatever.

  23. Ehhhhhhh, I don't really buy into arguments that sexism and racism go both ways (to put it another way, sexism affects my life way more than it affects yours, so why take so much offense?). Also you're not just some random dude, I have known you since I was 18 and any "assumptions" I make about you have some basis in evidence and experience. But point taken, maybe you cook every day.

    I don't fetishize pens and paper and "the book as an object" to the extent that many writers do. And the sound of people writing on paper with a pencil makes my skin crawl.

  24. sorry kiddo but if you are putting yourself out there as a spokesperson/pundit/whatever for sexism, then i say you should strive to be above the fray. yes sexism affects women much more than men, but you weaken your case and image if you sling the dirt with a wink and nudge just like everybody else. you're serious about your views right? i'll take you less seriously if i see you winking and nudging.

  25. My belief that most men do less cooking and cleaning than most women is part of my views. And I don't think it's sexist to say so.

  26. Ever notice how commercials for household cleaning products are universally directed at women?

  27. From

    Who performed which household chores tended to split along gender lines with women doing a lot of the cleaning, shopping and child care. Men, on the other hand, did more home repairs. But not that much more: On average, men spend only 13 minutes a day on do-it-yourself tasks. In the kitchen, women spend almost four times longer than men cooking meals and washing dishes. The time spent preparing food varied among countries. In the U.S. women spend about 30 minutes a day on these chores, compared with nearly 90 minutes a day in India.

    Not exactly a big surprise to me ...

  28. Theory: When you make an assumption about a man based on his gender, most of the time it works out in his favor.

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. I feel ridiculous asking this question, but what does "I wish I lived in a slave state" mean?


  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. good. next time i quote some gender-related statistics or anecdotes, don't get your puffy skirts all in a ruffle.

    and now of course one wonders, why do women do more of the housework? HAHAHAHAH

  33. Kirsten, I'm sure you'll understand when I say I was being ironical.

    Allen, I repeat: It doesn't work both ways.

  34. I do... I'm fascinated in fact by where we draw our lines (especially around humor)... it was hard for me to read that, and I'm sure I had not at all your intended reaction. I know that the black humor I find around death and illness really throws people sometimes and even keeps my writing from being read as I intend. strange. my friend recently pointed me to this article--and after I was horrified, I laughed at the absurdity of thinking up that ad, and at the idea of "never being too thin." (you have to scroll to the picture)

  35. let's just agree to disagree, i can't keep readin these comments

  36. Oh, wow, that is "creative" indeed! My apologies if the joke was over the line. I was in a lousy mood all week, so perhaps not the best judge of what is funny and what isn't. For the record, I also do not really think that vegetables cause more suffering than animals...

  37. Oh, but I love parsnips!! I'd rather chop a parsnip than a carrot any day.