Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

September 2009

Good Cooking

The other day as I passed farm fields full of Woody Jackson models, a fellow on NPR was going on about cooking. Cooking, he claimed, was more important than fire in the evolution of humans.

Before cooking, folks spent half their time hunting and gathering and the other half digesting all the raw stuff they successfully hunted and gathered. Once cooking was discovered — presumably fire was first used for warmth — digestion time was reduced, thereby reducing the need for big guts and eventually leading to activities like reading, organic dairy farming, and commuting.

This subject on the radio was a segue from a review of the movie about Julia Child starring Meryl Streep. The review was basically: Streep cooked, the movie stewed.

I once entered a neighborhood chili-cooking contest. I used canned beans, canned corn, packaged chili powder, hamburger, onions, canned tomato sauce, and a real tomato. I lost. I dealt with losing but was amazed to hear from competitors — women! — that my use of canned beans, corn, sauce, and packaged chili powder meant I hadn’t cooked anything, really, except maybe the hamburger, onion, and whole tomato, which I hadn’t cooked so much as warmed.

Harrumph!

When I had Boston baked beans as a kid, my mother started by soaking beans in a pot (big ceramic brown thing, actually — for a long time — A day? Not sure; I was just a kid). Then she added brown sugar, bacon chunks, onions, whatever, put them in the oven and, you know, baked them. Now, of course, if I want Boston baked beans, as with my chili I start with a can opener. So I kind of get the difference between the joy of cooking and nuking a frozen pizza.

Did Julia Child not have a can opener? Do I have to see the movie to find out? Isn’t it possible that since I was the only chili-cooker using corn (albeit canned corn) that’s why I lost? But here’s the deal: If you really want a little extra excitement in your next pot of chili, try adding corn. Del Monte is my favorite. The kind with the little red bits: C’est magnifique.