Cooking for nerds

You are a nerd. I know that because you are reading my blog. You probably don't cook. That is stupid. Let me explain why.

Cooking is easy

You may be intimidated by those who cook and make it look complicated. Don't believe a word they say. You can cook a perfectly fine meal for 1 to 4 people in half an hour.

For example, if you have dry pasta, any kind of protein (chicken, seafood, ground beef, sausages, chorizo, fish, whatever), a bouillon cube (vegetables, beef, whatever), garlic, onion and/or anything like it, and a glass of wine (optional) you can cook it like risotto

And here's the best part: read that recipe, and here's all you need to know to cook it:

  • Toast the dry pasta in kinda hot oil (olive oil if you have it, or whatever).
  • Add chopped onions, garlic, peppers (or whatever) for 3 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup of wine (it says white, but red wine will work, it will just make it taste "heavier" and change the colour). If you don't have wine, use broth. Wait two minutes or so until it's almost dry.
  • Add broth slowly while stirring.
  • When the pasta is still kinda hard, stop adding broth, add protein (chopped small so it cooks completely) and a bit more broth and lemon juice (or not).

Or you can do this:

  • Sauteé onions, garlic whatever and protein, then put it aside and save it.
  • In the same oil, toast the pasta. This makes the pasta tastier.
  • Re-add the protein and vegetables, then add wine and broth slowly
  • When the pasta is the way you like it, eat it.

See what I did there? I did it almost exactly the other way around. And you know what? It's still going to taste good. Why? Because cooking is very fault tolerant.

Yes, you will hear all the time about the perfect point for this, and the perfect seasoning for that, and ... it's 90% bullshit.

Sure, if you overcook the pasta it's going to be soggy crap, but you can avoid that by being minimally vigilant about it and buying a freaking $4 kitchen timer

Cooking is fun

Once you get over the notion that it's hard, cooking is easy to enjoy.

If you have a kid, he can help. If you have a spouse, he/she will like that you are taking care of the meal.

It's great for unwinding after being stressed. Strangely, chopping garlic relaxes me.

Have a microwave and a 3 year old? Then you can do this:

In one bowl mix:

  • Two beaten eggs
  • Add vanilla (or don't)
  • Add a bit of butter (or vegetable oil)

In another bowl:

  • 1 cup of regular all-purpose flour (or whole wheat flour)
  • a bit of baking powder
  • a bit of salt
  • half a cup of sugar

In one of those bowls add something else. If it's moist, add it with the eggs and such, if it's dry, add it with the flour and such.

That "something else" can be chocolate chips, walnuts, shredded carrot, bananas, sliced apples, jam, whatever.

Once each bowl is mixed, mix them together a bit until they "mesh". Don't work it too hard or the result will suck.

Then get two (or three, or one, or four) mugs (or cups, or muffin trays, or anything that's microwave-safe) and fill it half-way with the resulting batter.

Microwave it until it looks good, then eat it. If you are not sure if it's cooked, stick a wooden toothpick in it and see if it's dry when you pull it.

Your 3 year old can take care of the dry bowl (he does similar things in kindergarten, you know?) as long as you help with the measures. And most importantly: he can take care of starting the microwave, so tecnically he can say he cooked it (3 year olds are very into technicalities).

Again, see what I did with that recipe? You can replace almost any ingredient with something else (I don't recommend not using eggs, though) And it will probably work.

And you will end with a flour-covered kid, which is a bonus, because then he won't make a fuss about his bath.

Cooking is good for you

I have high blood pressure and I'm fat. But you know what? I have not gained any weight since I started cooking for myself, 10 years ago. I gained a lot before that, though.

Now I can cook semi-healthy food for me, and do it with the low sodium I need. Sodium is a habit, so after you are eating low sodium for a few weeks you don't really miss it.

If you are a nerd, you probably are a bit too sedentary, so eating "right" will help you.

And most importantly, you know what you eat. Sure, you also need to take care of what ingredients you buy, but did you know that pizza has a like 400% markup? And that you can do a reasonably healthy pizza in, like, 40 minutes of work?

The only trick is starting 3 or 4 hours early.

But if you use home-made dough, chopped tomatoes for sauce, garlic, peppers, and not too much cheese... it's not a terribly unhealthy meal.

And of course, you can always do a salad. Come on, how hard could that be? It's chopping things up and piling them, dude!

And it can be tasty and filling. You just need to do a lot of it ;-)

Cooking is cheap

A milanesa (sort of a breaded steak?) in a cheap restaurant wil cost you about $25. For that money you can make 7 or 8 at home.

A good piece of prime meat in a restaurant? $50. That buys 2 pounds of prime meat in the market for you to cook.

A reasonable lunch menu for office workers costs about $30. For that money my family of 3 eats twice. And better. And more.

You can make yourself the most awesome sandwich in the world for under $10, with anything you imagine in it and take it to the office.

And, most importantly...

Cooking is Applied Nerdiness

Cooking gives you a way to easily experiment with real-life chemistry, gives you something concrete to show for your effort after a whole day coding things you can't really show your family.

Why does ham taste well with apricots and not with apples? Or does it? How about chili? Does it go well with sour cream? How about pepper on a strawberry?

But forget about adding: What can you remove from a recipe and still make it work? What can you replace? If you can make banana bread, can you make banana croissants? (no you can't, they taste awesome but they look ghastly)

How can you go through life without wondering if you can really cook fish with just lemon juice? Exactly how long do you cook rice in your microwave so it looks creamy and taste great without removing excess liquid? Did you know you can steam 2 pounds of potatoes in 10 minutes with a plastic bowl and some plastic film, and they will make the most awesome mashed potatoes you ever tasted?

Your kitchen is an awesome place. Instant noodles suck.

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