The new breed of chef is cooking with gas

The Farmer is already planning his next menu. It will likely be some candied meat dish – or meat stuffed with meat. Vegetarians beware

The Farmer learned to cook when he was living with a bunch of other guys in university. His cooking style is rather eclectic. He combines things you wouldn’t imagine, like brown sugar and turnip, and his guests are usually pleasantly surprised with the taste. If we aren’t, we keep our opinions to ourselves. His meals are his artistic expression.

The first meal the Farmer cooked for me was one of his farm-raised chickens. He planned to slow-roast it on his brand-new barbecue rotisserie. For a side dish, he took cherry tomatoes, baby potatoes, mushrooms, chunks of sweet peppers and onion and alternated theses on skewers. I think there might have been some shrimp on there, too. It was our first dinner date and I was very impressed.

I was amused, however, to pull into the farmhouse driveway just as my date was hiding something behind his back. I hopped out of the car before he could dispose of the item. He sheepishly brought it out of hiding to show me. It was a handsaw.

It turns out the rotisserie on his new barbecue wasn’t turning properly. He figured the barbecue was either the wrong model for a rotisserie or it was a factory fault. The chicken was trying to turn and getting stuck halfway. Our dinner appeared to be doing a weird dance over the hot grill.

I took a closer look at the business end of the rotisserie that protruded outside the barbecue. The underside of the motor was clearly marked “this side up.” The Farmer had installed the thing upside down and when it refused to turn, he cut a larger hole in the side of his gleaming new barbecue, in an attempt to give it more room to move. I chuckled quietly to myself and pressed Stop on the rotisserie.

“What the …?” my date frowned.

“It’s upside down,” I said, carefully turning the contraption – and the chicken – right side up. “See? All better.” I laughed and let myself into the house to get a glass of wine.

My husband is hoping I’ll one day forget that story but the occasional retelling of it keeps it fresh in my memory. He used that barbecue with the embarrassing saw wound for another 10 years until we finally bought him a new one.

One of my favourite meals prepared with love by my husband was a simple pork loin sliced and stuffed with old cheese and pear slices. I don’t know what he did with it because he hasn’t been able to replicate it since, but it was the single most amazing meal I’ve ever tasted. Perhaps it was the wine.

He cooked that dinner on his old electric stove, on a cold winter night. Later that year, his mother replaced her glass-top convection oven and we inherited her old one. It would be the beginning of a long and arduous relationship between my husband the chef and his main cooking implement. The darn thing never did what he expected or intended.

We have a traditional Sunday dinner for our extended family and assorted friends every week. Some of them travel up to an hour to break bread with us. All of our guests bring side dishes and dessert, but if the main course isn’t ready on time, sweat beads break out on the chef’s forehead. He starts to panic and kicks everyone out of the kitchen, as if staring into the belly of the stove will bring the temperature up on the meat thermometer that much quicker. He hates that convection oven.

Things are about to change. The Farmer has a new gas stove. It’s a massive black and stainless-steel monster and it sits confidently in the kitchen, waiting for him to create his first masterpiece on it. I watched him pressing all the buttons today, testing all the burners. I’m sure he’s already planning his next menu. It will likely be some candied meat dish – or meat stuffed with meat. Vegetarians beware.

When my daughter first brought her new boyfriend to Sunday dinner, I asked her if he cooked.

“Haven’t we bred out the ones that don’t?!” she laughed.

It does seem to be an accepted role for the man of the house to be the head chef now – he’s no longer restricted to the barbecue. I’m all for it. Let’s not stand in the way of progress, I think, as I pour the wine.

Troy Media columnist Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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