Home > Uncategorized > The Tools Don’t Make the Chef

The Tools Don’t Make the Chef

My wife likes to tell the story about the first meal I ever cooked for her.

I had met her when she came to school at UW Whitewater. I was returning from a summer of working as an assistant in a now defunct restaurant. Seems that many of the places I’ve worked at went out of business shortly after I left. After a month or so of cafeteria food, I decided one night to make her dinner. Ok, I had an ulterior motive in that I wanted this girl to like me. Anyway, I asked her what she liked and she said she really liked chicken cordon bleu.

Great! We’re in a dorm room. I don’t have a kitchen, let alone the facilities to really do justice to a dish like this. I needed to think. What do I have and what do I need.

Knife, spatula, tongs, spoons, I had all those. Pots and pans, my camp set would have to do, and it was big enough to cook for two. What I really needed was a heat source.

Now back then, there were two things you could find in most every dorm room. One, an electric flat bottomed popcorn popper. Two, a hot pot. Neither one of them technically allowed at that time, but very much overlooked by the university.

The flat bottomed popcorn popper is essentially a single temperature electric skillet. Mine had the advantage of not being quite flat. There was a deeper well in the middle that was closer to the electric coil essentially giving me two heat zones. High in the middle and low around the perimeter. Plus with a little foil, the dome lid/bowl could be used to make it an oven. The hot pot of course is still the best way to boil water without having a stove.

Not the best of conditions, but I could make it work. Really the worst that could happen was the food was inedible and we had to go the cafeteria or maybe order pizza. Either way, I would still win some points for trying. I can only imagine what she was thinking, because she never told me, when I came to her door with a bag of groceries, hot pot and popcorn popper.

Ok, I know you want to know. Yes, I still remember. The menu consisted of:

Chicken cordon bleu
Green beans
Roasted new potatoes

It came out perfectly. She still remembers it and brags about it every chance she gets. When I think about it, I focus less on the food, but more on what I was able to do without a proper kitchen.

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