Is Cooking Necessary?*

No, it’s not.

That’s your immediate answer, isn’t it?

After all, you’ve got more important things to do, don’t you?

Or do you?

You can live your life without cooking. You can go to your nearest grocery store and bypass all the technology and knowledge that took your ancestors centuries to refine. You can buy all the ready-made food you could ever eat. You can eat plastic food. And you’d survive, too.

But, in spite of all that, well, and I hate to sound so blunt and ornery and stringent, you’d be wrong not to cook your own food.

You might be able to ignore it all and think it’s OK.

But I’d feel sorry for you if you choose that path. And your body might, too.

Just think what you’re missing by not cooking:

In cooking, you connect to life itself, to the earth that feeds you, to the people who love you, to the past that gave birth to you.

Is cooking necessary?



*With thanks to James Thurber and E. B. White.

This fried chicken ought to encourage you to open up the oven and stop using it as a free storage unit.

Oven-Fried Chicken Anybody Can Make (and Love)
Serves all your friends, OK, maybe just 6 (but you can increase or decrease the recipe as you see fit)

My mother cooked this chicken pretty often, a dish she learned from her mother, who was born in West Virginia. I loved coming home from school at 4 p.m. on a cold winter day in Washington state, smelling the crackling, greasy skin of chicken sizzling in the hot oven. With a cold hand resting on the front of the oven door, I’d sniff and try to open the door to swipe a piece of that crispiness before Mom caught me. I’m proud to say I succeeded more times than I failed.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. kosher salt or fine sea salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 t. paprika
1 t. ground cumin seed
1/2 t. hot curry powder
1/4 t. thyme leaves, crushed

2 T. shortening
3 pounds chickens parts, preferably legs and thighs.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the flour and the spices together in a sturdy plastic or paper bag. Grease a heavy cookie sheet with shortening. Dump chicken pieces into the bag with the flour mixture. Coat well. Place chicken pieces skin side down on the cookie sheet. Bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 1 hour, turning pieces once, halfway through the baking time. Chicken should be crispy on the outside and so meltingly tender on the inside that the bones just slip right on off.

Serve with mashed potatoes and cream gravy.

© 2010 C. Bertelsen

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