When peeps want to "help" you cook......

This reddit thread is… a fun read.

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I remember years ago my brother putting my ceramic tortilla server on the stove top. I didn’t see him do this as I was prepping stuff on the opposite facing island. Moments later I heard “CRACK!!!”… turned around to see it in a half dozen pieces. It was a cherished gift (along with some beautifully decorative salsa/guac serving dishes).

Since then, guests are welcome to help prep and/or assemble… but are not allowed to cook!

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The parties will remain unidentified, but I have one recurring guest who insists on creating joint meals, and although the selected cuisines are generally cuisines I like and even dishes I like, this person somehow seems to under season, imbalance herbs and spices, and undercook (to the point of questionable safety) proteins. Another always wants to make appetizers and/or salads. Although the results are unusual but delicious, this guests always picks inappropriately small knives and moves through the processes with maddening slowness and inefficiency. So I sit on a counter stool and pour more drinks. In both cases I hover during certain junctures to ensure that carbon steel knives are wiped and dried and that tinned copper is not overheated, especially empty!

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The only kitchen help I get is from the four legged peeps who strategically lie on the floor to create opportunities.

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Someone posted that reddit a while back and I meant to read more of it but forgot, so I’m glad you popped it back up here.

Some of those stories are so cringe-worthy. Especially the clueless types who ruined the food via uninvited meddling, then were nasty enough to complain it wasn’t good.

I don’t have any cooking stories like that, thankfully. I do have household handyman type stories about my knuckleheaded FIL, though, who did stuff behind my back that I’d specifically told him not to do when he’d suggested those things. GRRR. Luckily he doesn’t set foot in the kitchen while I’m cooking.

I’ve got one sister (out of 2), two daughters (out of 3), a cousin, and a good friend (best man at my wedding) who are all really a joy to prep and cook next to, whether one of them is visiting here or I’m visiting their families.

Edit - tangentially related, my in-laws used to microwave my pork chops. It took me a while (several years) to convince them that shoe leather texture was not a necessary element of pork. I even showed my MIL the temp guidelines for pork and that trichinella can’t withstand 155 (not even 140, but the texture there is too gooey). She kept saying these were new guidelines and she was set in her ways. What got her moving was one day I saw an old Joy of Cooking, from the 1950s, in her cabinet and showed her that even then, the Beckers recommended pull temp for pork was 150-155.

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My current kitchen set up is on the small side. So please, have a seat on the stool at the end of the counter and engage in pleasant conversation. I’ll take care of the chopping and stirring.

Enjoy your meal at Casa de Cookies!

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Cast Iron and Carbon Steel are the reasons I don’t care to give someone free reign in my kitchen. They put my ancient 10 inch CI in the dishwasher. I like cooking and having company in my kitchen. I have an open kitchen, so there’s room. I love putting together thanksgiving while people filter through and chew the fat with me. Wine tastes best when accompanied by loved ones.

I’ll take help mashing the potatoes, though. one thing I love, I have a niece who’s 6yoa. She was helping me make rolls, smash potatoes, make the green bean/mushroom soup, fried onion casserole. She helped me de-stress during thanksgiving. Funny a ball-of-energy kid was the biggest help. Made me worry less about perfection and more about togetherness. Love dat kid!

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I go out of my way to do as much as possible, for as many days in advance as needed, to avoid having other people in the kitchen when I am trying to work. Just not gonna happen.

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I’m big on mise en place for such occasions. Allows me to still be in charge of the cooking, while socializing in the my sacred space. BBQ, have everybody who wants a sniff/view the goods, do it now. Once the lid shuts, it’s staying like that for awhile. I have one acquaintance who never fails to lift the lid of my rice pot midway through cooking. Then, she gently replaces the lid, and I take the whole deal out the back door and toss it. “Why’d yah do that?” Grrrr!

I also need solitude in the kitchen for my own sanity. People who insist on following me in there to socialize while I’m trying to work are swiftly redirected elsewhere.

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I don’t mind people being in the kitchen and am fine chatting while chopping etc., but stay out of my way. Stand over at the far side of the island, the side opposite the stove/sink.

I had a minor blow-up at my wife last Thanksgiving. Every large meal when we’re having guests over (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) I ask her several times while I’m prepping the meal to get the plates/glasses/utensils out and on the table ahead of time. I don’t care if the table is set, I just want the stuff out ahead of time.

Invariably, she’s visiting with the guests until the last moment and would be in my way trying to get stuff out of the cabinets or dishwasher at the same time as I and 1 or 2 daughters are furiously trying to get several last things finished. I actually snapped at her “Dammit this is what I asked you 3 times not to do again” which kind of shocked her. (We’ve been married 30 years and never had any kind of a fight.)

Christmas and Easter dinners saw the stuff out and on the table ahead of time, each soon after the first polite request.

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Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
Credit: Juan Antonio Segal, Flickr