To save my family from my predictable pedestrian cooking, I signed up for one of those services that gives you a box of stuff once a week. If you’re used to using the smoke detector as a timer, it’s a new level of cookery. The accompanying directions have stories, of course.
“We’ve combined the water-dwelling scaly beast some locals call ‘cod’ with a delicious Burmese-Flemish take on fishsticks. Verjus adds a tang; pickled truffles provide a rich bass note; Andean Death Peppers add a finishing touch of weeping. Let’s get started!”
So you open all the boxes and containers, roll up your sleeves and prepare to make actual food. To a novice, this is what the recipe looks like:
“Liberally grease a round pan with clarified butter. If the butter is not clarified, explain the situation until it understands. Set burner to high-medium low heat. Mince the squam. Sift Chinese Five Spice Blend until there are only four spices; set aside.
“Bronze the cod for three minutes. Turn cod over; pierce with sword; drizzle with one oz. liquefied Quail (provided).
“In a small pot you do not have, pour one jot of Virginal Olive Oil and add capers. (You may substitute ‘amusing, harmless criminal endeavors’ for capers.) Whisk vigorously with a hand broom. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
“Add one cup of heavy cream; lash for one minute with a birch branch; set aside. Pick up again. Set aside again. Move it 6 inches to the left.”
Then: “Make the plotte, a fish-based French soup that comes from the mountainous regions of Alsace-Lorraine. Since there are no fish up there, the cuisine uses pictures of fish cut out of newspapers, seasoned with salt and pepper. We’ve provided some illustrations from 19th-century newspapers. Rub the anchovy paste into the pictures until the ink runs. Season with salt and pepper.
“Add 5 gallons of cooking sherry to the plotte. Add 1 pound of flour. Stir until forearm cramps. While the plotte thickens, mince two water chestnuts, then smush them into a bolus du phlegm, as the French call it. Throw it away. It’s disgusting.
“Transfer capers to a small dish. Add the cod. There should be nine cod; check your math. Now, using a forque du poisson, divide the cod and multiply them by a prime number. Note: If you multiply the cod by zero, it will vanish.
“Whip the potatoes; whip them good. They are naughty potatoes and they deserve this. They’ve been very bad potatoes, haven’t they? Oh, do the potatoes like this? Then the naughty potatoes shall have some more. Salt and pepper to taste.
“Set potatoes aside, rudely. Combine the cod, capers, plotte and pictures of 19th-century French fish in a tall oval pot. Stir until bored. Season with salt and pepper.
“While the glop heats, dice the square of Himalayan Pink Salt (provided) into small granules. Put the six-pepper assortment into a blender; purée. Combine salt and pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
“Add potatoes to tall oval pot; mash with hammer until plotte is thoroughly stunned. While mixture recovers, dice one onion into trapezoids. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Preheat a chafing pan with vegetable oil; pre-chafe a heating pan with a fistful of Crisco. Burninate the onions.
“After five minutes, spoon rice — oh, drat, we forgot to mention the rice. OK, nuke one of those dollar-store pouches, it’s all good.
“Plate the cod. Garnish with char. Pairs well with: 140-proof Everclear.”
That’s what I feared it would be like, but it’s not like that at all. You get used to the terms and the processes, and before you know it, you’re an actual cook. You’re making real food you’ve never had before, and — ha! — no more Taco Tuesdays.
P.S. How I miss Taco Tuesdays.