Friday, December 19, 2014

Time Saved!

Earlier today, Doug of Doug's Workshop made a comment that I'd like to run with a bit, specifically this part:

"Many people 'learn to cook' not by understanding the principles of the art, but by using the gadgets sold. Garlic press? Sure, you need one because garlic is awesome. Bread machine? Yes, because fresh bread is terrific."

This got me thinking about gadgets in general . . . but before I go off on a tear about the way playing modules kills the imagination, I just won't.  Instead, I'll talk about cooking.

Garlic, for instance.  What you need is a good knife, one where the blade is about an inch deep.  Like the one shown.  Clean off the garlic clove you want.  Place the clove on the cutting board.  Then place the side of the knife over the garlic clove.  Point the knife blade towards you so you won't cut yourself.  Press down on the side of the knife with the heel of your hand, steady but hard, until you feel the garlic crushed between the knife and the board.  Pick up the knife.  The garlic should be very flat, split into several pieces and wet.  If the garlic is still one piece, you haven't pressed hard enough.  Now chop the garlic with the knife blade three or four times.  Your garlic has now been crushed.  Scoop the crushed garlic up with the knife and drop it into your pan.

Up to three cloves can be done at a time, if they're warm.  The total time this takes is about two or three seconds.  If you're in a hurry, you can do it in one second - but I wouldn't recommend hurrying that fast until you've done this about seven or eight hundred times.  Since the chances are you already have a knife in your hand when you need the garlic, this will save you a great deal of time in putting down the knife and picking up the garlic press, then putting down the press and picking up your knife again.  The knife does a better job, too.

Why do garlic crushers exist?  Because, a) people are afraid of big knives; b) refridgerators can be sold to eskimos; c) it sounds like a good idea; and d) it never occurred to your mother or father that a knife can be used to crush things.

In short, ignorance.  If cooking shops did not carry garlic presses, they'd be harassed by would-be cooks until they did, because the presence of garlic presses has become so expected that shops can no longer ignore them.  This is a sign of the supreme victory a marketing department can ultimately have over a population - eventually, even cooks will buy them.  I worked in a number of restaurants where garlic presses could be found among the various tools.  Ignored, of course.  Such things are purchased by kitchen managers and restaurant owners - people who 'cook' for a few minutes between office hours.  Real cooks do not have the time that garlic presses demand.

But there is something to be learned here, where it comes to the time we take to prepare things. We suppose, if there are two hundred garlic heads and the garlic press can crush one head every minute, then the total time it will take to crush all the heads will be 3+ hours.  Whereupon the cook comes along and does the pile in 40 minutes.

It is easy to think you have the right tool and the right method; but it may be that you've simply missed a lesson or two along the way.  I get that people watch that idiot Ramsey scream at people and waffle on about food with bucketfuls of meaningless adjectives, but actual restaurant cooking is about ordering actions in the least amount of time - those that survive are those who can keep their heads about them in a dangerous environment.  Cooking isn't about gadgets, it isn't even about skill.  I could teach any one of you a reasonable amount of proficiency with a knife if you did it every day for a year.  Cooking is about paying attention.  Noticing details.  Recognizing slight color changes, an odor in the air, a certain alteration in sound.  If you're told what to expect, it's actually very, very easy to manage these things.

If you've never been told - or you have been told and you refuse to listen - then you will always be a lousy cook.  But then, conveniently, we can identify the lousy cooks very easily.

Hm.  Now that I think about it, DMing works the same way, doesn't it?


Ktulu said...

Absolutely spot on comparison. Well said and, I think, easy to grasp by most. Definitely sharing this post with my peers.

Scott Driver said...

There are people for whom the act of owning and using the garlic press is a status-demonstrating ritual, and there are others who'd exclusively use heirloom flaked-flint knives if they could get them, so yeah, the metaphor seems pretty applicable to DMing.