Mark Bittman is an American food journalist, author, and former columnist for The New York Times.
Knife Skills Are Bulls*it from THE BITTMAN PROJECT
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ZAK: It's The Best Advice Show where every episode I give you one discrete morsel of advice. Today, I'm pleased to welcome back, Mark Bittman, the famous food writer and cookbook author. You know Mark is? He's like your uncle who reminds you, it's fine. Just relax. For example, sometimes you hear a chef talk about how important knife skills are. Mark Bittman disagrees.
MARK: And, I saw some famous chef say, if your knife skills are bed, you'd better up your game. And I'm like, how can this possible matter. I know we're not videotaping this but my grandmother, I mean peasants all over the world, cut food by holding it in their hand cutting it with a pretty dull knife. Or maybe with a sharp knife. But that's a different kind of knife skills. But, chefs grew up or in the days of apprenticeships, would be giving a box of onions and say, here, cut these onions and you'd have to learn how to cut 50 big onions in 20-minutes and that's an amazing skill. Incredible. A home cook doesn't need to know how to do that. You cut an onion up any way you want to cut an onion up. It'll still taste fine and the fact that someone can do it in ten-second and it takes you a minute, cause even a novice can't take more than a minute to cut up an onion. So what? So it cost you 45-seconds. I mean, the dish takes you a half-hour to make. 45-seconds is not a big deal.
ZAK: It made me think that maybe there's a metaphor in there, too. Like, life is so much more accessible when we don't think we have to be perfect or something.
MARK: Or expert. I mean, mostly we don't. No one thinks they have to drive like...I don't know the names of any race car driver. No one, thinks they need to drive like somebody who drives in the Indy 500 if such a thing still exists. No one thinks they need to play tennis like Naomi Osaka just to give credit where credit's due. You just do those things. Maybe you feel bad or you wish you were better but somehow...and I think it's because chefs took over food television and so everybody thinks well if I'm gonna cook, I need to be able to cook like a chef. And, it's not in your interest to think that you need to be a chef in order to be a cook. You just need to think like your grandmother or great-grandmother. These people just cook and they don't fuss around with like, is this parsley minced uniformly enough or is this onion...did it take me 10-seconds to perfectly slice this onion or is this browned evenly enough? Your stove's not good enough for that. You don't have a good enough stove to do a real stir-fry. There's all these limitations in being a home-cook. Live with it. You're not a chef. It's fine. It's not a big deal.
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