By Hannah Reich Berman
Some people never learn. Unfortunately, I happen to be one of them. This covers all areas of my life. On the plus side, nobody can call me a quitter. If there is something I haven’t mastered, I keep at it until I have—or at least until I do as well as I possibly can. True, I did enroll in a Spanish course last year to which I didn’t return this term, but that was due to time constraints and not because I gave up. Although, based on my performance in that class, it would have surprised no one if had given up.
One of my favorite forms of relaxation, when I tire of reading, and of writing this column, is watching television—also known as the idiot box or the boob tube. But, in my defense, not everything that I watch is mindless. I am one of those rare breeds; I enjoy commercials. Not just any commercial, mind you, but only those that are highly amusing. It does not escape me that there is great deal of creativity vested in these ads, and creativity is something I appreciate.
As for the programs themselves, I adore cooking programs. I always have. There is no program on the Food Network that I have not watched at least one time, and there are some in reruns that I have watched a second time. Not all of them capture my interest, but most of them do. Instructional cooking shows are informational, and I also like most of the cooking and baking contests. Iron Chef is one program I can do without. But I love Cupcake Wars and Chopped. I am proud to say that I have even learned to control my gag reflex when contestants are forced to peel, slice, and chop such goodies as grasshoppers, pig’s feet, and, my all-time favorite, eels! Those are only a few of the huge assortment of ingredients that contestants, according to the rules of the program, are forced to use in the Chopped competitions. But I handle it. And I continue to watch.
In these shows, the competing cooks and chefs have their work cut out for them. The contestants, using ingredients that have been provided for them by the show’s producers, are given as little as 20 minutes to concoct an appetizer and 30 minutes to come up with an entrée. Speed, therefore, is an essential component, and for most of these contestants, that means employing every skill he or she has ever mastered.
I have seen people slice a huge onion in five seconds. Other tricks of the trade include an art I have no name for. That would be the art of mixing food (usually veggies) in a frying pan without disturbing them by pushing them around with a spoon. What could possibly happen to those veggies as a result of a little gentle stirring with a wooden spoon, I have no idea. But cooks and chefs don’t do that. Instead, these pros pick up the pan and somehow manage to toss and turn whatever is inside by flipping the pan.
I have watched this countless times but still haven’t figured out exactly how it is done. All that I know is that the food jumps up and what was underneath comes to the top while the pieces on the top get to the bottom. Presumably, it is not necessary for me to explain that not a single little diced veggie ever escapes. Nothing ever goes over the side of the pan. Every piece remains inside. Amazing!
I have tried many times to slice an onion at record-breaking speed. But I can’t get the hang of it and, despite my determination, I am this close to admitting defeat in attempting to master that skill. Time and time again I have told myself that I won’t try it anymore unless I can eliminate the danger to my hands and fingers. Perhaps I might convince some entrepreneur to come up with a set of prosthetic hands and fingers to be worn over one’s own so that they may be used exclusively for chopping and slicing. Although, it occurs to me that real prosthetic hands are something I might G‑d forbid need if I keep trying to speed-chop-and-slice with my own hands. At the very least I would need some new fingers.
The “pan toss” also eludes me. I cannot get the hang of it. And it is not for lack of trying. As that is a somewhat less dangerous endeavor, I have not given up on it. But I’ve gotten smarter in my old age. I only do it over the kitchen sink, or when I have cleaning help in the house. I got tired of wiping the stovetop and the floor after half of the veggies flip—not back into the pan, but out of it!
To my credit, those are the only two professional cooking skills I have yet to master. On the other hand, those are the only two I have tried!
As an aside, I had a similar problem many years ago when I tried to learn how to do the moonwalk. I watched the late Michael Jackson do that move over and over again, but I never mastered the art. Back then, there was nothing dangerous about my attempts. I didn’t trip or fall but, in spite of my determination, I was just never able to do it. Today, I wouldn’t try it. I’m happy just to be able to walk on earth! That’s the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.