Posts Tagged ‘office of’

From the Office of Cooking Experiments (Christmas Edition)

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Dec 14 2016

Today, in timely festivity, the Office of Cooking Experiments presents its very first Christmas edition. Christmas is, of course, a beautiful, spiritual season that is easily ruined by stress, and it is our hope to reduce the stress that you, the amateur holiday cook, so naturally feel. At Christmas, you are expected to cook for numbers and at a culinary level beyond your comfort zone and possibly beyond your capability. With the cookies you bake, the eggnog you whip up, and the many side-dishes you concoct, you contribute to the joy of the season and the cherished holiday memories of your loved ones, many of whom are no help at all. So you are naturally, as we say, stressed.

The Office of Cooking Experiments understands! The Office of Cooking Experiments has been there! Once it almost cut its own cable line because it observed that the world is divided between those who cook on holidays and those who watch football, and no cable, no football! But it did not, because it remembered it would then have to call the cableperson and perhaps answer awkward questions. The Office of Cooking Experiments further reflected that Christmas is, after all, a time of warmth and charity, and of all the faces that charity wears, cooking is not always the least.

The Office of Cooking Experiments also resolved to reduce its stress and not-totally-necessary work. Now it shares its well-learned tips with you, the amateur holiday cook, in cautious optimism that they will help you to enjoy a merrier Christmas.

Nine types of Christmas cookies are not necessary. Reflect for a moment: What cookies are people digging up from the bottom of your festive Christmas-themed tins a week after New Year’s? Don’t make those anymore.

Use crockpots. At the Office of Cooking Experiments, “Use crockpots” is our mantra; it would even be our motto, if our current one were not so absolutely superlative (“We make mistakes so you don’t have to”). It is ideal that, at Christmas dinner, there be dishes of unusual number and complexity and that they all be done at more or less the same time. Amateur cook, crockpots are your end run around this; things cooked in crockpots can be done hours apart and served, hot, at the same time with minimal burning.

Count the number of burners on your stove and add the oven. This is the upper limit of dishes to make for Christmas dinner, even if you use crockpots.

Measure the spices carefully. We mean this literally – many dishes are sadly sensitive to generous amounts of, say, cumin or red pepper – but also figuratively. In Yuletide recipes, you are liable to come across spices that you do not use the rest of the year and have never even seen in your local grocery store, though granted you were not looking. Measure the likely contribution of these spices to your Christmas joy and decide whether they are worth an excursion to the store. We recommend cloves but not fennel. We cannot even define cardamon.

NOTE: When the recipe calls for “grated lemon zest”, it is merely joking. Have a hearty laugh and break out the lemon juice.

There are many, many different ways to decorate a Christmas cookie. Some people regard sprinkles as a necessity, others as a superfluity. Some people prefer the dunk-and-done method, others view frosted Christmas cookies as works of art as elaborate as the Sistine Chapel, only not as permanent.

Which method is best? Whatever method is not yours. Trust us, and let everyone, including four-year-olds, frost as many cookies as they want in whatever way they want.

Yes, amateur holiday cook, there are many ways to reduce your stress during the Christmas season, and one of them is to get other people to do cookery for you. It makes them feel useful. It is a gift. ‘Tis the season.

From the Office of Cooking Experiments

Culture, Misc. | Posted by Shannon
Feb 07 2016

The Office of Cooking Experiments – lately released from the kitchen, which is why there is flour in our hair – is pleased to once again offer our cooking wisdom to you, the amateur cook who frankly needs it. We get our wisdom the old-fashioned way, through experience. We also get our experience the old-fashioned way, through lack of wisdom. “We make mistakes so you don’t have to,” that’s our motto.

Today’s topic is safety. Safety is, of course, of first and greatest importance, and we wish we had thought of it before now. On the expectation that it is not too late, we now present safety tips to be observed while you are also observing our cooking tips. We preface these tips with a brief reminder, sprung from sincere concern and a desire to protect: We are not legally liable for anything.

And now, fellow cooks, the tips:

When you cook, make sure the smoke alarm is turned off. Smoke alarms tend to be sensitive contraptions, liable to go off if you broil chicken or fry potatoes or even just boil water. Consequently, smoke alarms are always crying wolf (metaphorically speaking), and the members of your household become conditioned to roll their eyes in annoyance whenever they hear the smoke alarm go off. This is unsafe. You don’t want your loved ones assuming, whenever the smoke alarm sounds, that you are merely cooking. You want them assuming that something may be wrong. And if those two are the same in your household, we clarify: “something wrong to the point of maybe involving the fire department.”

EXCEPTION: This advice is predicated on the assumption that you remain in the kitchen. If you are one of those cooks who routinely leave to check the mailbox, do laundry, find a book, nap, etc., then you should definitely leave the smoke alarm on. It will signal you when it is time – high time, in fact – to be heading back.

Remain vigilant, spatula in hand, whenever broiling something that requires only a few minutes to roast. We are thinking of pecans, for example, or granola. Remember: If it is done at seven minutes, it is hopelessly burnt at eleven minutes, and at fifteen minutes it bursts into flames.

If, while you are boiling chicken, a flame starts in the burner, do not attempt to put it out by covering the burner with the lid that was on the pot. Having been on the pot, that lid is now splattered with chicken grease as well as water. Have you ever seen what flames do when exposed to grease? Shoom.

Before carrying around a heavy marble rolling pin, ensure that the handle is fully intact. If the handle is not intact, it may suddenly break, and the marble rolling pin will with unerring accuracy land on your foot. If you are lucky, no bone will break; rather, your skin will turn several impressive and unnatural shades, and your foot will be sore for weeks. And if this happens on Christmas, particularly that Christmas where you were already nursing a moderate-to-severe cold, your Christmas will be pretty much over; all that is left, after you finish whatever you needed the stupid rolling pin for in the first place, is to go to bed.

But enough with bitter memories. Our point is that you should remain safe in all your adventures in cookery, and this requires simple precautions and, in certain crucial moments, quick thinking. And if a speedy exit is ever absolutely necessary, the back door is always located very near the stove.

From the Office of Cooking Experiments

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jun 05 2015

The Office of Cooking Experiments, in its ongoing quest to save amateur cooks from themselves, is pleased to present the latest installment of our cooking guide, tentatively titled Been There, Cooked That. We are also considering Been There, Done That, Sorry to Say. Or maybe just Sorry. One-word titles are all the rage, and Sorry is usually what we say after our experiments. Once or twice we’ve even had to say it to the fire department. We make mistakes so you don’t have to, that’s our motto.

Where were we? Ah, yes. The cooking guide. First of all, amateur cooks …

Crockpots are good; crockpots are our friends. What’s so great about crockpots, you ask? We’ll tell you: You just throw the stuff in and leave. The food cooks itself. Actually, the crockpot cooks it, but in practical experience, there is no difference. With crockpots, you can forget for whole hours that you are cooking and nothing will be the worse for it. This is not true when you are using the stove or the oven, as the fire department made clear to us.

– Caveat: The pitfall of this is that crockpots cook slowly; we believe this is why some people call them “slow-cookers”. Sometimes crockpots cook too slowly. When this happens, and for some reason you cannot wait, such as the natives are rioting, you can pull out the crockpot and finish the food in the oven.

– Caveat on the Caveat: If you do this, do not put the lid of the crockpot into the oven. The handle may melt and drip over the food, and that could ruin it.

A little peppermint extract goes a long way. The good news is that those tiny little bottles of extract are a better value than they look. The bad news is that if you don’t know this and you dump half the bottle into your hot chocolate, your hot chocolate will have the refreshing minty taste of mouth wash. And the little bottle of extract will be a bad value after all.

Baker’s chocolate is unsweetened. This was one of the greatest disappointments of our experiments, even worse than the time we destroyed an entire dish of chicken with red pepper. Chicken is, after all, just chicken, but chocolate is chocolate. And chocolate should be sweet. Baker’s chocolate looks like it should be so good, like Godiva or some expensive chocolate with an Italian name. But no. Instead, biting into one of those perfect squares of chocolate, you get …

No. We cannot contemplate it.

You, the amateur cook, will also grow sadder and wiser in the ways of the kitchen. But like us, you will also learn what not to do, until finally you no longer have to say sorry to your family, or at any rate to the fire department.

From the Office of Cooking Experiments

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Apr 15 2014

We at the Office of Cooking Experiments are proud to once again offer you, the home cook, the benefit of our experience and knowledge. “We make mistakes so you don’t have to” is our motto. So read on, cooks of America, and do as we say, not as we did.


Always cook from a recipe. That way, nothing is ever your fault. You can always blame the recipe, like so:
I don’t know why it’s taking so long. The recipe said half an hour and it’s already been in the oven forty-five minutes.
I wasn’t sure about the amount of salt, but it’s what the recipe said.
The combination of anchovies and peanut butter sounded weird, but the recipe had a four-star rating.


When making meatloaf, you should add either oatmeal or bread torn into pieces. We prefer oatmeal. It’s easier.


Everything needs salt. You wonder why this is, why even chocolate cake and strawberry lemon zest mousse need salt? We wonder, too. We don’t understand it. But put the salt in, like the recipe says.


Do not use celery. There is no purpose to celery, except to maybe exercise your jaw muscles. We have left the celery out of many, many recipes that called for it and never noticed the difference.


Do not try to make any recipe with more than two ingredients you have never heard of.


If a recipe calls for buttermilk, you can buy the buttermilk at the grocery store, or you can whip up an easy substitute, taking normal milk and mixing in one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of milk. Or you could take the normal milk and just pour it right in. We at the Office of Cooking Experiments project that adding vinegar or lemon juice will make the milk sour, and who needs sour milk? We recall the old Irish song about drinking buttermilk through the week, and we judge this to be one of the reasons so many of the Irish ended up in America. There are many Irish-Americans, but you’ll notice that none of them drink buttermilk through the week.


The experienced cook evaluates recipes for three things: flavor, cost, and ease of preparation. As a general rule, each one comes at some cost to the others.

From the Office of Cooking Experiments

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Oct 03 2013

We at the Office of Cooking Experiments (motto: “We make mistakes so you don’t have to”) have compiled a helpful cooking guide for all of you who always wanted to cook but never could find the spatula. These are some insider hints, some tips to get you started:


Stir in the flour gradually – yes, gradually; it really does make a difference.

What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder? Whether or not your cookies get eaten, sometimes.

Red pepper is lethal.

Everything your mother ever told you about separating egg whites is true.

Read the labels of everything you put in, before you put it in. Cinnamon and cummin bottles look remarkably similar, but if you put cummin on the frosted cinnamon breakfast rolls, someone is going to notice.

The bottom of the pan is always hot.

Bacon goes from “nearly done” to “done” in exactly seven seconds.

Deliciously seasoned, tenderly cooked meats can be easily had by calling your local deli. For home-cooked meals, salt the meat and stick it in the oven or the crockpot, which is our personal favorite. We forget for hours running that we are cooking anything.

When boiling vegetables, do not let the water boil all away, or your vegetables will burn.

If you read the labels on spice bottles – put there by the manufacturers, we note – they will tell you that the spice you are holding in your hand is good for everything, except maybe ice cream. Do not believe this. In reality, spices are color-coded. Green spices, such as basil and oregano, go with red foods, like spaghetti and lasagna. Paler spices, like ground mustard and garlic powder, go with lighter foods, such as noodles and macaroni and cheese. Brown spices – cinnamon, cloves, and allspice – go with sweet foods, such as pie, cakes, and the breakfast rolls we mentioned before.

“Cream of tartar” is not good for fish. We don’t know what it is good for, but it’s not fish.

Nothing is as easy as the cooking books make out.