Jo Walton (papersky) wrote,

Work and Play, Cooking With Lazy Jo

I just realised that the reason I don't have a mixer is that I'm too lazy.

No, seriously.

Did you ever wash a mixer? There we are then. Compared to mixing a cake, or pastry, it's way more work.

On Anarres, they have several words for work. One also means "play" and one means "drudgery". I try to maximize the kind of work that's play and minimize the kind that's drudgery. Washing mixers is drudgery. Beating an egg into sugar and melted butter is more like play.

In my last entry on mince pies, in the aside on applesauce, I mentioned that kids love making it. I have a theory about that which relates to the many meanings of work and play. Kids love to play, and hate to do drudgery, but there's another shade of meaning of work which we use when we talk about art, work that creates something real. Kids today get lots and lots of play, and lots of drudgery in school, but not enough of that third kind of work, work making something real. Cooking produces something real, and that's one reason why kids love it, especially baking which is kind of alchemical in that you get out something so different from what you put in.

I have a next door neighbour who is twelve, E, and she is always on for making applesauce, or making brownies, or helping me cook. At this point she can one hundred percent do brownies on her own -- I do the drudgery bits of the applesauce which is peeling the apples. I do it because I can peel apples (or potatoes) really really fast, which is because I'm lazy. Also one reason why she can make brownies, and other cakes, is because I'm lazy, and teaching her now lets me be lazier in the long run. She made two Ideal Chocolate Cakes when Jon Singer was coming for Farthing Party. I was doing other things. She made both of them on her own. How cool is that?

The other thing about my lazy cooking is that it tastes great but it doesn't always look great, because I'm too lazy to mess with appearance. And it doesn't always have proper names when I've adapted a recipe, because what it's called doesn't matter either. My ideal food is something that takes no trouble, that I can do in advance and not at the last minute, and which makes people eating it say "Wow". So clafouti or cassoulet are actually less trouble and more effective than say mashed potatoes, which aren't difficult but they have to be done at the last minute. I'd never do mashed potatoes for lots of people.

My Lazy Jo cooking has a certain amount of "man who was too lazy to fail" about it. I'm efficient. I have the tools I need. I work out timing in advance, and I do as much ahead as I can. I use free kid labour when available. Some of this comes from needing to minimize my standing time. When I post a recipe I'll sometimes say "do other things in the kitchen while it..." and I'll sometimes say "wash dishes" and I'll sometimes say "check email" because really, that's how I time things.

One of my friends said once she couldn't follow my recipes because I don't start with a list of everything you need, and that's because I'm not cooking on a clean page, I'm not cooking as a separate activity, I'm cooking in a lazy integrated way, where I wash dishes while the butter melts, and where the egg-white from the egg I separated for the mince pie pastry went into some cakelings which will be iced (when they've cooled) with the icing left over from the chocolate log. (E made that icing on Saturday. She makes great butter icing, actually better than I do because she's twelve and therefore she enjoys tasting it as she goes along to get the amount of sugar right, and I find I get sickened if I do that too much and tend to put too much sugar in consequence and get it too stiff.)

Z and A and a friend of theirs are coming for breakfast, we'll have crepes and bacon and apple sauce and maple syrup. The apple sauce is made, and I left the flour and the butter out when I made the cakelings and the apple sauce because I knew I'd be needing them again soon. Bacon cooks itself, all I have to do is mix up some flour and egg with milk, which I'd do now because I'm lazy, except that A's bringing the milk so I can't. But lazy cooking wins every time.
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