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Having a lot on one’s plate

Alan Stewart likes to potter around the kitchen, but you’d best stay out of the way.

Talking in a camera or singing are entirely acceptable while cooking.Talking in a camera or singing are entirely acceptable while cooking.

It’s easy to forget that stereotypes are frequently wrong. The female is often misogynistic ally portrayed as indulging vanity through fashion or as conservatively locked away in the kitchen, when most of the pioneers in the fashion industry and the ­­renowned chefs are typically men.

I find that in Mediterranean culture men often know their way around a kitchen be it because they were raised that way or because they wanted to show off for others. I am more likely to meet someone who pokes fun at his girlfriend or wife because he’s the one who cooks and she’s lumped with the dishwashing. I fall into this pattern as well.

I’ve often told the story of how my significant other was unaware that water should be boiled before pasta is thrown in, which is why I feel the kitchen is entirely my stomping ground and it should be managed exactly as I want it to be. If I’m going to be doing anything elaborate the first step in this endeavour is to remind everyone to stay absolutely clear of the room.

I’m thinking of several things at once and I don’t like to be interrupted, jostled or bumped into. I’m also holding knives. Read that how you may. My second step usually is to crack open the laptop and put on something to listen to. I tend to prefer not to have music while I cook and lean to having dialogue as company. I’d rather have some British comedies spin amusing anecdotes on a panel show to keep me company, and the programmes usually range in the 20-30 minute range which is a good benchmark for cooking times. (There’s a glut of options on www.bbc.co.uk/programmes or YouTube).

If a recipe is required, then it’s printed in a large font and taped to a cupboard at eye level. Ingredients are then divided up in the quantities required and within arms’ reach. A while back I bought a series of small metal bowls just so I can accomplish this and feel like a TV chef.

Explaining your every move into an imaginary camera is entirely acceptable. I then get out the lucky knife – lucky, in that it’s never cut me and seems to hold an edge, despite slipping out of my hand and nearly impaling my foot on several occasions. Ovens or pans are heated and let the games begin.

My significant other was unaware that water should be boiled before pasta is thrown in

On the subject of pots and pans I’ve got a nice set which really improves the cooking process, nice thickness, non stick and so on. This really does frustrate me.

As a responsible adult I don’t bring anything into contact with them that isn’t wooden. Preserving the non-scratch state is almost religion. Still, there are days you just want to conjure up a pasta dish with too much sauce and too much cheese, stir it up and then eat directly from the pot in front of the TV.

There is something that pleases me deeply about stabbing a fork into a tub of food. Now that I think about it, I’ve always been a little concerned about my joy of chopping potatoes. It feels a lot more enjoyable than it should and I wonder if my subconscious is substituting the potato for something (or someone) else.

No cooking experience is complete without ritual. In my household, my sous-chef and kitchen cleaner is my dog, who replaces his usual hyperactivity with diligent sitting expectation, for when I either toss him the fatty bits off a cut of bacon or something falls accidentally to the ground.

Because I am a little messy in the kitchen, why not? I’d say that the wisest thing to do is clean up as you’re cooking, washing out the bowls you don’t need, while something is simmering, but I rarely adopt this thinking. Cleaning feels like work, and cooking does not – so why should the two overlap?

My brother takes this to a new level. He’ll never use the same knife, bowl or pan twice in one cooking experience. So in the course of preparing a meal at my flat he’ll go through the entirety of my cupboards.

There isn’t a single piece of cutlery that isn’t in the sink and not a single discarded onion skin or package wrapping that’s found its way to the bin, which means that dishwashing time is as intensive as the process of moving house.

At the end of the day, I’m not aiming to impress anyone with dishes that have far too many French or Italian words in the title. I just want to make something, feel a sense of creative accomplishment and preferably have others join in that experience. Succeed or fail, we’ll have something to talk about.

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