are afraid of soufflés." I've lost count
of the times I've heard that deathless phrase fall from
the lips of a TV chef. But how do they know home cooks
are cowering in mortal fear of a roux base combined
with whipped egg whites and an additional flavouring?
Has a survey on the most terrifying baked puddings been
conducted by the Department of Health? Did I miss the
Jerry Springer "My Egg-Based Dessert Hell"
special? Or is it simply that telly cooks are desperately
trying to preserve their position of influence by appearing
more knowledgeable and confident than their viewers?
any telly chefs happen to be reading this, then listen
up lads. I laugh in the face of soufflés. I whip
my eggs to the brink of collapse; I fold my mixture
with reckless abandon; I open and close my oven door
during the cooking process. I'M NOT SCARED OF SOUFFLES.
On the other hand, I am afraid of what I might do the
next time some witless gonk tries to tell me that my
fellow viewers and I are frightened of filleting fish,
making risotto or cooking mussels.
I'm over reacting just a tad, but the notion that we
mere mortals need A Famous Person to help us over come
our culinary fears is laughably outmoded and deeply
patronising. Over the last five years or so, the internet
has proved that there are not only countless highly
skilled amateur cooks out there, but that they are more
than willing to share their expertise for free. The
web has transformed our individual kitchens into a global
cookery school where we're all teacher and pupil simultaneously.
to learn how to make paella? Go to cookskorner.com.
Want to sharpen those blunt knives of yours? Then just
click into the eGullet Culinary Institute at eGullet.org
for a master class. Just what to chat about your cookery
disasters? Then hang out at chow.com.
is a complex thing. You can spend a lifetime learning
and you'll only have covered a small area of the subject.
That's partly what makes it so fascinating. Soufflé
making is one of the more complicated techniques for
cooks to master, but it's far from impossible. A grease-free
bowl, a steady hand with the whisk, a reliable recipe
and you're home and dry. It's hardly as intricate and
arcane a practice as say, competitive fat carving for
example (yes, chefs really do sculpt lions from lumps
of lard). Now that really is something to be scared