Anthony Bourdain: kitchen skills every college kid should have
Anthony Bourdain’s new book, Medium Raw (HarperCollins), is a fun read and easy to devour in a weekend. Unlike Kitchen Confidential, his 2001 bestseller, this book takes place outside the restaurant, and looks at his life since fame, fortune, and world travel took over.
The chapter on basic cooking skills particularly interesting. Bourdain acknowledges that young people don’t know how to cook anymore, and argues: “I do think that basic cooking skills are a virtue, that the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill.”
“Through a combination of early training and gentle but insistent peer pressure, every boy and girl would leave high school at least prepared to cook for themselves and a few others.
At college, where money is usually tight and good meals are rare, the ability to throw together a decent meal for your friends would probably be much admired. One might even be reasonably expected to have a small but serviceable list of specialties that you could cook for your roommates.
Cooking has already become ”˜cool.’ So, maybe, it is now time to make the idea of not cooking ”˜un-cool’.”
So just what does Bourdain consider basic kitchen skills? He says we all should be able to know how to
- handle, sharpen, and maintain a knife; dice, mince, and slice effectively
- make a good omelet
- roast a chicken
- grill and rest a steak. “There’s no reason that generation after generation of families should continue to pass along a tradition of massacring perfectly good meat in their kitchens and backyards.”
- cook veggies to a proper doneness
- make a basic vinaigrette
- shop for fresh produce, recognize what’s in season, what’s ripe, and what’s rotten
- recognize a fish that’s fresh, know how to clean and filet it
- steam a lobster, crab, or shellfish
- roast meat without an oven thermometer
- roast potatoes, mash them, make rice
- braise well enough to make a beef bourguignon
- make stock from bones, then make soup, “a lesson in frugality many will very possibly have to learn at some point in their lives”
- develop a specialty dish that you’re proud of
Are all these skills vital to being considered a real grown-up, as Bourdain argues? Or do a take-out menu, a cell phone, and a pantry of instant ramen suffice?