There's always a little down time when you're cooking, whether you're waiting for your eggs to poach, your onions to caramelize, or your roux to get...roux-ey enough.
I think cooking is like baseball, or jazz, in that, to enjoy them, you have to get past the fact that, in all three, there seem to be times when nothing's really, you know, happening. The biggest difference between the three is that Ken Burns has yet to do a twelve part documentary about cooking. Yet.
I use my idle time in the kitchen thinking about philosophy and coming up with crackpot theories, which I guess then should be called crockpot theories. I don't bother with meaning-of-life stuff, since that ground has been covered pretty well. I like to fold my philosophy into my cooking, like I'm making a pie-crust out of ideas. And a pie-crust should be flaky, right?
I wrestle with the questions that have troubled cooks for centuries, like "Can you cook chicken in beef stock?" (which, by the way I will not try--it just seems wrong and disturbing). Or, "Is it wrong to have noodles AND potatoes in the same meal?" (this is known amongst philosopher-cooks as the Starch Conundrum).
As much time as I've spent thinking about cooking, I have yet to figure out the answer to the fundamental question all aspiring chefs should ask themselves--"What is my catchphrase?" A cook without a catchphrase is just...someone cooking! Who would want to watch that?
From "Kick it up a notch" to "Yummo," the chefs making the big-time tv bucks all have that one phrase or word that brands them. The thing they say when they add the lemon zest, or make peaks in their meringues. I need one of those.
Initially, I wanted it to be just one syllable--one big flavorful syllable, like Emeril's "Bam!" (Hey--why does he get to use that AND ""Kick it up a notch"? I think he should have to pick one) .
I thought I had it when I spent a week or two saying "Boom" while I was cooking. Now I'm new at this, so I may have overused it. I guess it's overkill to shout "Boom!" when you're just, say, adding a sprig of parsley. Doesn't matter--some sandwich guy on Food Network beat me to it. So I need to find something nobody's using.
I considered going really retro with some vintage slang. I could shout "Applesauce!," but that really only makes sense if I've just made applesauce. I really like 'pish-posh,' and it sorta sounds like a food item ("I'll have the curried pish-posh"), but it's a bit too snooty for the food I like to cook.
I need a word or phrase that just pops out at you, or that would look good on an overpriced apron once I'm famous and selling signature aprons. One of my favorite Yiddish words is "davka," which, like most Yiddish words, cannot be translated. I've seen definitions ranging from "of course" to "annoyingly" to "in his own inimitable way."
I should probably only use that if I'm cooking for a Passover seder, davka, I'll have to try something else. Sticking with Yiddish for a moment, I could always liven up my hypothetical cooking show with the Roaring Twenties favorite mazuma, which meant money, as in " This casserole is SO mazuma."
Desperately wanting something as my trademark exclamation, and wanting it to have a little cosmopolitan cachet, I turned to the web and found the phrase "Ahnaal Natrakh," which was supposedly part of a Merlin's Charm of Making (according to the 1981 movie Excalibur featuring Helen Mirren, Nicol Williamson, and at least one Redgrave, so I'm sure it's historically accurate)
Unfortunately, after I'd rehearsed how I would use my cool new catchphrase, I learned that "Ahnaal Natrakh" is also the name of a death-metal band in the UK known for songs such as "Castigation and Betrayal" and "Screaming of the Unborn" off their album "Hell Is Empty and All The Devils Are Here." Not really the vibe I'm going for.
I could turn to pop culture, but all I could think of were sci-fi catchphrases like "Resistance is futile!," which would be dramatic but maybe overly pushy ("And now, you garnish the soup, and realize RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!"). Or what about something more old school--every time I add an ingredient I could say, "By the power of Greystoke!"
Superheroes always have catchphrases, and since I already wear a cape and a tights when I cook (there's a mental picture for you), I could go that direction. The Torch's "Flame On!" would work unless you're dealing with an electric range, in which case you would have to shout "Warm Up Gradually," which doesn't really have the same impact.
Eventually I hit a wall and just started trying random phrases. How 'bout "Take the next train to Tastyville?" I considered going edgy with "Put that in your Dutch oven!" Then I thought about going understated, so my hook phrase could be "Now THAT'S edible!"
I think I finally found the inspiration for my catchphrase in a Nat 'King' Cole song from 1945 called "The Frim-Fram Sauce." In the lyric, the singer lists the foods he doesn't want, and ends each verse with the same gibberish words:
I want the frim-fram sauce with the ausen fay
With chafafah on the side.
Well there's at least two potential catchphrases right there! "Let's add a little frim-fram!" is perfect, because it could refer to anything you throw into the dish. But even better--chafafah. Not only does it sound like an exotic food (something you might have with a side of tabouli), it's just plain fun to say!
"Next you'll add your basil, and...chafafah!" "Dredge the pork chop in the flour and--chafafah!" The best thing about it is, since it's a made-up word, you can even use it as a curse if you want--"I put in too much salt--chafafah!"
Go ahead and laugh, but by next year you'll be flipping through your Williams-Sonoma catalog and see a full line of CHAFAFAH™ kitchenware. Aprons, cutting boards, spatulas, you name it. And I'll be rollin' in the mazuma.