Honor among thieves…

“You might get the impression from the specifics of my less than stellar career that all line cooks are whacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts and psychopaths. You wouldn’t be too far off base….maybe they’re running away from something-be it an ex-wife, a rotten family history, trouble with the law, a squalid Third World backwater with no opportunity for advancement. Or maybe, like me, they just like it here. “ – Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

I need to come clean: I recently stole something. Well, not really “stole”, and not really “one thing”. More like “borrowed indefinitely” and “four things.”

You see, all cooks are thieves. Not of the “break into your house on Christmas Eve” ilk, but thieves nonetheless. And? I am no better than the next white jacket down the line. Was I shocked to find two more whisks than I left home with and a brand-new-to-me pair of tongs? Not really. Because that’s just how it goes when you are in a hurry to get from one kitchen to another. You aren’t looking too hard at what goes into your kit, and neither is the cook next to you.

Did I mean to do it? No.

Will it happen again? Definitely.

But none of this thievery is intentional. I have no need for more whipping instruments or grabby devices. And in some other cook’s kit is my favorite peeler, a few towels, and a microplane.

Am I irritated by this? Yes. Because that was my *favorite* peeler, dammit.

Am I mad about it? No. Because it’s inevitable, so there isn’t any sense in getting pissy about it.

And now I need to say this: In spite of all this thievery, cooks are the most generous people on the planet. Truly.

We are geared to feed you on a multitude of levels. And when I say “geared”, I mean, it’s essential to our being. We are the lowest on Maslow’s hierarchy, but want nothing more than to ensure that your basic needs are met.

For instance, in the last week, I have delivered two dinner baskets to people who aren’t cooking for themselves for whatever reason, got bored and made carrot cake for the folks at my favorite bar, gave dessert ideas to one of my favorite ladies chasing a guy I heartily approve of (she went with vanilla shortcake with grilled fruit and bourbon whipped cream), delivered restaurant recommendations to a guy I think needs to land a particular girl (I’m really hoping they are able to get a table at Frances), agreed to teach a baking class (at a bakery I think makes the best bread in all the land), and will spend the holiday weekend cooking exactly enough food to satisfy the Holy Roman Army at an event I already told people I wouldn’t be feeding them at, as well as providing desserts for a family event (that I’m pretty sure I’m stepping on some very gracious toes to do so).

And in unwitting trade for the things I gave up, the lovely Patty (with whom my friendship is as uncomplicated as my path to knowing her has twists and turns) provided me with an unprecedented bounty from her garden and the always delightful Paige (who provides a sense of balance and reprieve from judgment) handed off not only a dozen pasture-raised eggs, but also garlic, rosemary salt, 3# of flour, and a loaf of bread from Eat Well Farms.

I? Win.

I also managed to pilfer, along with the aforementioned tools, a jar of the most effing delicious quick-pickled onions I’ve ever tasted. Really. And true to the generous form (in spirit and body) of cooks around the world, I want you to have them too, so here they are:

Pickled Red Onions

Courtesy of Christa Colardo, of Marin Cooking

You will need:

  • 1 sharp knife
  • 1 small saucepan
  • 1 sterilized pint jar and lid

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 medium red onions
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pinch chili flake
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seed
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 pinch salt

Slice onions into 1/4″ thick slices. Separate into rings and pack tightly into your jar.

In the saucepan, place all other ingredients, and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour hot mixture over the onions, and close jar. Refrigerate for at least a day before enjoying on salads, sandwiches, or whatever else your little heart desires.

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