Food for Thought*

I am a terrible cook. If I tell you I’m going to cook dinner for you, run the other way. You have been warned (told about the danger).

When I was growing up, my mother did all of the cooking in our house.  Her children’s job, according to my mother, was to study and practice, and hers was to feed us.  I thought that that was a great arrangement (plan) until I left home.  Then, I really learned to appreciate my mother, especially when I had to fend for myself (take care of myself).

To this day, I still don’t know how to cook very well.  Although I plan most things in my life, when it comes to cooking, I like to fly by the seat of my pants (do something without planning) and to cook something by instinct (acting according to what feels right or natural to me).  That means I’m not very good at following recipes (instructions for cooking a dish).  Since I have so little experience, you can probably imagine how well that usually turns out (results).

Despite my bumbling (behaving awkwardly and without skill) in the kitchen, one of my favorite TV shows these past couple of years is Top Chef.  This is a cooking competition reality show (show with real people, instead of actors) where some of the best chefs (professional cooks) in the country are selected to compete in cooking challenges (games; competitions) on each episode.

I’m very surprised that I like watching this show.  I don’t like traditional cooking shows where a chef shows you how to cook a dish step-by-step.  I suppose I don’t actually want to learn to cook a dish.  Instead, I enjoy seeing people who are at the top of their game (among the best in a field of work, study, or play) being creative and having to do so under the gun (on a deadline; with limited time).

Are you a good cook?  Do you like watching cooking shows or cooking competition shows?

~ Lucy

* “Food for thought” is something, such as an issue or idea, that is given to someone for him or her to think about.  For example:

  • “Learning about different careers is good food for thought for students entering the university.”
  • “Seeing so many stories on the TV news about the dangers of house fires was food for thought.  I now think we should do more to protect our home.”

Photo Credit:  White House Chefs – From Wikipedia

This entry was posted in Life in the United States. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Food for Thought*

  1. Peter says:

    You are yanking my chain Lucy,aren’t you?
    Get out of here 🙂
    Come on ,you can whip up something to eat,that is for sure
    A woman in your capacity, cooking must come easy to you.
    You are just being modest.
    I bet you are a great cook.
    Making food in general, needs creativity and you are full of it(no pun intended)
    I have a 5-year of proof Lucy:)
    All incriminating evidence 🙂
    I like “Chicken Hell” series
    Have you ever watched it
    The head chief is arrogant and rude that makes the show even more interesting.when the competitors make silly mistakes he gives it to their faces in a total insensitive fashion:)
    If you must know ,I m a terrible Cook as well
    All I can cook is boiled eggs
    I sometimes brave out to sear some sirloin steaks but they always turn out charred on the outside and pink on the inside.
    It never fails!
    There is Something wrong with my taste buds; all my dishes come out bland and tast less.
    I eat out for the most part.
    You are funny Lucy ,
    If you don’t have a knack for cooking,as you claimed( sorry but ,I don’t buy it) . Definitly ,you have a flair for using the best words possible in describing your lacking of culinary skills 🙂
    Thanks for the post
    I took away a lot!
    You are funny as hell sis

  2. Hilario says:

    WE´RE WHAT WE COOK: Well, more or less, lets don´t exagerate things around. The real thing about daily cooking task, apart from being a very important issue as it is, is that it really is a three operation task, it involves a phased process or it´s an operating multitask process as we say in project managing. The first one is to shop up the ingredients and this is not a banal thing, one must be aware of the affordable quality to price rate in order to get a reasonable final output. A proper and thoroughly thought storing of the raw stuff, both dry and fresh items is also very convenient. A day-by-day on wall menu chart acting as a supplying plan can help a little bit with this task because there nothing more frustrating than not having available a needed ingredient on the last moment. The second is of course, to cook them out and that, in my opinion, must be the individual art of simplicity combined with an intuitive timing and smart choosing processing and recycling of the ingredients. Nobody know better than ourselves our particular response or our after eating wellbeing. We are all having specific digestive feautures in terms of posterior reaction to ingesta like gluten content or aminas presence and so forth, and what is good, healthy and tasty for other people can not be so suitable for us. The third, the last but not the least one, is the washing out of the utensils and the kitchen itself, a good chef is not so good at all if the kitchen room looks like a cage of lions after his work .

  3. Peter says:

    Oh,allow me to rectify something here
    Don’t take me for a rich guy because I m not . I m a destitute 🙂
    I said ,I ate out mote often than not.
    I meant ,there is this joint(a poor quality restaurant) close to my place .:) I am a regular there
    And there is a popular dive in my area of city ,which is open 24/7. It serves cheap food.
    The quality is as poor as it can get ,but for a nomad like myself is the best place to grab some grub:)

  4. Betty says:

    Thank you so much, Lucy, for this well planned cooking lesson with lots of new words and phrases for me to learn.

    I always tell people that I am not a good cook because I only cook something quick and simple all the time.

    Lucy your mother is the best mother in the whole world. She has created a good daughter with a doctorate degree, what more does a mother wants? All the hard work of cooking and feeding her children paid off when her children study and practice well and become good citizen of the world.

    I have paid attention to read your article and although it seems a very simple article, there was so much to learn – it is like a simple dish of food but everyone loves it and will never be bored with it.

    By the way, do you like eating ‘Baked Beans on Toast’? It is a quick and easy snack to make; a traditional English meal, which can be enjoyed at breakfast or simply as a snack.

    I will try to cook simple but healthy food for my children when they are around. But I can eat Baked Beans on Toast every single day if I am on my own.

    Sorry please don’t mistake me for an English, I am a Chinese who can cook perfect boiled rice without using a rice cooker – a very special skill that I am proud of.

    Answer to your question, I am a good cook for myself and my children – I don’t have to worry about what other people think of my cooking; I love watching cooking shows and cooking competition shows, they always inspire me to cook something different from time to time.

    Thanks again Lucy.

    All the best wishes



    Hi Hilario, I can tell you are a very good and experienced cook.

    I enjoyed reading your post very much. You are right, ‘a good chef is not so good at all if the kitchen room looks like a cage of lions after his work’. I thought my kitchen is like a battle field after I cooked!

    I have admitted I am not a good cook right from the beginning.

    All the best wishes


  5. elcomandant says:

    Since my children were growing, my wife always cooked the meal that my three children wanted and liked, so I was eating always the same meal. I think it is what always happens in every homes. It’s also true that this is the easiest meal to cook.

    I can’t remember how many years I was eating just what my children liked to eat. We ate Macaroni with tomato, meat with chips, eggs with chips, fried chiken, and not many more things like these. One day, many years after, I decided to cook just for me. I told my wife that I would cook for me from that day.

    I started to do it and I realized that I liked my dishes and I also enjoyed cooking. From then, many years ago, to now, I have cooked a lot, for my family, my friends, in celebrations, in Christmas Day, and so on.

    Nowadays I enjoy cooking a lot. It is relaxing to me, cheap, healthy, and keeps my mind healthy because I like to do some innovations, so I must think a lot if I want to cook something really good.

    I know that I’m not a good cook, but unlike Lucy, I enjoy cooking following the recipes that I read in the magazines, I listen on the radio or I watch on Tv. This is the important thing.

    I recommend it everybody, even you, Lucy. Try it seriously one day.

    By the way, I always clean up everything in the kitchen after I cooked, if I don’t want my wife make me to sleep in the bathtube.


  6. Betty says:

    I hope to talk about a word that Hilario used in the sentence: “The first one is to shop up the ingredients and this is not a banal thing” (third line of his post – message no. 2 in this series).

    The word ‘banal’ looked like a very simple word but I had to look up the dictionary to find its meaning.

    According to, “ The pronunciation of banal is not settled among educated speakers of American English. Sixty years ago, H.W. Fowler recommended the pronunciation (b n l, rhyming with panel), but this pronunciation is now regarded as recondite by most Americans: no member of the Usage Panel prefers this pronunciation. In our 2001 survey, (b n l ) is preferred by 58 percent of the Usage Panel, (b n l) by 28 percent, and (b -näl ) by 13 percent (this pronunciation is more common in British English). Some Panelists admit to being so vexed by the problem that they tend to avoid the word in conversation. Speakers can perhaps take comfort in knowing that these three pronunciations each have the support of at least some of the Usage Panel and that none of them is incorrect. When several pronunciations of a word are widely used, there is really no right or wrong one”.

    Help! Such hopeless situation for such a simple looking word! I am glad to have learnt this word today, but I will know why if people cannot understand me if I try to pronounce this word, it is not even settled among educated speakers of American English!

  7. Øyvor says:

    Dear Lucy and readers!
    Thanks so much for a new topic expressions=) I`m watching TV-series about food and how to make food from time to time, however, competitions are not my cup of tea.
    Can I add a question here..what about food crisis in the future..high will people manage when they have to make all food themselves..where will you get the food from..what are you going to do? Shouldn`t we learn more about how to cope with a situation like that..
    As for me, I like to bake and make food from scratch..thanks to my ancestors..we had little income and my father used to hunt, so we were teached how to make food and how to store it. I feel a bit “old-fashioned now, haha..well, that`s the way it is.
    Have a nice day!

  8. Ethan says:

    I’ve never seen that show but I love to watch competition shows. It’s just that I really cannot spare time for ‘top chef’ because I already watch too many TV shows. Sometimes I think that US citizens are so blessed with abundant TV shows. I mean it. I don’t watch a single TV show of my own country in order to watch American TV shows. I used to make an excuse that watching American TV show is good for my English :p

  9. Hilario says:

    COOKING BANALITIES: Thanks Betty for your kind remarks on my last posting, I also hapen to me to enjoy very much your full-of-sense posts here. I´m more than interested in your particular recipe that you mentioned in your post: “I am a Chinese who can cook perfect boiled rice without using a rice cooker – a very special skill that I am proud of.” That comment sounds great, you know? Would you be so kind again as explaining briefly your cooking secrets for this eslpod audience, that would be very kind of you, please don´t left out any essential detail but at the same time, you know what they say “few words are needed for a good listener”. Regarding the word banal, its root is indeed much more from the latin side rather than from the anglosaxon side of the English language. “Ban” was a verbal or written announcement made by the roman authorities in order to inforce a prohibition throughout the roman empire, something that people was compulsory to obey independently of having prior notice or not about. So the thing was from that moment banal or being known for everybody and being done by heart. If we could agree that today´s search engines are kind of democratic dictionaries as well, the word banal in shows up 16,200,000 results, it´s not so bad word, is it?.

  10. Myo ko ko says:

    This Lucy’s post has just justified why Jeff, in the podcast, didn’t see “even a good thing” about you when it came to cooking or prepareing food!! 🙂
    Just kidding you, Lucy!
    If you can believe it, all blog posts (including yours, Lucy! 🙂 ) right here on this very spot are “food for thought” for me in acquiring the global language, English.

    By the way, Lucy,
    I am sometimes wondering if your name “Lucy Tse” is your “original” or “real” name or not.
    Let me clarify it a little bit, Lucy!
    In the dictionary, there’s a word ( an adjective, of course!) “Lucid” meaning “clear; easy to understand.”
    Okay, by making a little adaptation, we get your name “Lucy” (coined) from that word “lucid”.

    Or, sometimes I doubt whether your name is a “pun.” Again, let me argue this point! 🙂
    (Jeff once wrote, somewhere in this blog, about “pun” under the topic: “Fun puns.”)

    Again, have a look that word “lucid”, we have its “adverb form”– “lucidly” meaning in general ” clearly.”
    By removing the vowel ” i ” and ‘consonant cluster’ ” dl ” from the word, we get “lucy” — your first name!

    The second name “Tse” sounds “say.”
    Well, right on this point, we’ve got ….. “clearly say” ….”Luc(idl)y Say” ……”Lucy Tse,” our own Dr.Lucy Tse! –who speaks (teachs, if you will) us “clearly” in her second to none scripts. 🙂
    This is, I think, sort of “double punning.” (Hey, my English teacher, Jeff, am I right the way I punned her name?) 🙂

    Well, again, this is “my two cents” only!

    If so, how about Jeff’s name?
    Well, let me brainstorm a moment!

    Ahh….I’ve got it! Don’t give it second thought!
    His name “Jeff” came from the word “Jeffish!” (Jeff, right?) 😀

    Hey, ESL friends here, don’t you know “Jeffish”? OK, here is a hint. Re-listen episode-37! 🙂

    Like Emiliano, recently, I read all ESL friends’ comments here! It kind of feeding my “soul” or “heart” , if you will, (mimicking Jeff’s speaking style! :), to read ESL friends’ opinions of different perspectives on our ESL teachers’ topics.

    But, Lucy, I’m afraid to say that I’m NOT going to say “Thank you” to you for your lucid post this time.
    Well, don’t get me wrong!
    The reason why is that Betty has already said “Thank you” to you “on behalf of” all ESL listeners here! 🙂
    Lucy, don’t you grasp the point I am meaning by above sentence? Well, here is Pierre’s comment, but a bit of excerpt:
    ……”Betty is the nicest woman of the world. she always thanks Lucy, Warren and Jeff. Nobody else needs to thank, Betty always does for us.”……

    Just for fun!….and
    Bye for now. 🙂

  11. Johnny says:

    Today’s topic is definitely a nutritious food for thought,
    cause I missed my comfort food that my mummy cooked me when I was growing up.

    Actually I’m not a good cook, have so little experience about it, so I’m not picky when all
    the delicacy mother roast and boild to offer.

    In our daily life,Some people eat for comfort, some people get enormous psychological gratification from food,
    other people couldn’t care less– they have to be reminded to eat. I’m the one not to much focus on what kind of food we eat,
    though it seems like I’m a silly.

  12. Peter says:

    Perhaps you should take cooking lessons
    The chain Groccery stores holds culinary classes.
    The cahrge is 20 dollars
    I singned up for then three or four times. It is a grate place to meet girls:)
    So,take up one of those classes.

  13. Peter says:

    To my chagrin,the out line of this coming week episodes is not yet up.:))))
    I Can’t wait to see if one of my many questions would be answered on the coming up Cafe.
    I am crossing my fingers and hope for the best!
    Seems like there is a big line of questions.Perhaps , my questions are skipped over once or twice,since they never made it to the English Cafe:)

  14. Betty says:

    Hi Hilario, I am very happy to read your further elaboration of the word ‘banal’, and to find that you are interested to learn more about the perfect boiled rice cooking method.

    Now I remember I once lived with an Indian family and the Indian lady cooked perfect boiled rice without a rice cooker as well. It is only in a city like Hong Kong where the rice cookers were marketed so successfully that people lost their skill in cooking rice without a rice cooker.

    The main points in making sure the boiled rice is perfect is to use Thai Fragrance Rice (also called Thai Jasmine rice), wash the rice twice in a small sauce pan (just a quick stir of the rice in some tap water and drain off the cloudy water), and then boil the rice with same amount of fresh tap water as the rice (eg. two cups of rice + two cups of water), level the rice, cover the sauce pan with a lid and boil at high heat until nearly boiled over (this happens in about 5 minutes’ time). Don’t open the lid to look at the rice. The rice need the pressure and heat to cook perfectly. Turn the fire down to minimum so that you can see a little bit of steam coming out but it is not boiling over. Remember don’t open the lid and don’t stir the rice at all. The rice is cooked and ready to be served 15 minutes later (total cooking time = 20 minutes). You should smell the rice perfectly cooked and not burned.

    Bon Appetit!

  15. Ziba says:


    Thank you Lucy, you mentioned a delicious topic.

    Although I’m not good at cooking but I like it especially cooking traditional food, but nowadays I prefer to cook new food. Good cooking is an important skill in my our life in my country.
    I think a top chef is one who can cook with the ingredients he has in the kitchen. (or are available)

    I don’t want to exaggerate, but sometimes I make food with material that I have in my kitchen because I don’t have enough time to go shopping. For example when there isn’t any meat in refrigerator to cook a kind of food, I replace some mushrooms or soya with meat, it’s possible.

    The most important thing to make food delicious is love, when you start cooking with love your food will really taste good. Imagine when you were a child your mom’s cooking was the best in the world, because your mother cooked with love for you.

    Thanks’ again Lucy, as always good new words,


  16. Tania says:

    Hi! An attractive journey within the street art with yarn bombing in your post from August.
    I have just seen yarn bombing in bedroom like modern art in a fashion German magazine.
    Thanks to you I was able to understand the message of a yarn bomber.
    But the nature is much nicer than to cover it with yarn waste with dust, dust, dust,…

  17. Tania says:

    Hi! I have read about the singer Amy Winehouse and her death and in our press.
    I found a headline in a Romanian magazine “The 27 Club” after I had read your post.
    And , of course, thanks to you I knew what the title meant. Thank you.

  18. Hilario says:

    ECLECTIC COOKING.- Some art manifestations as painting and cooking could be considered, I think are always eclectic by nature. Betty´s rice artisanal recipe for perfect rice boiling, lines up with the best possible sources: China and India, places where rice was by certain, a milenaria culture before even showing up in our culinaire western culture. A same, more or less, rice´s boiling pattern is followed in Japan, with the only inclusion of a little amount of awaiting time, no more than ten minutes, between the cleaning up of the rice and the boiling out. The Spaniards, specially in the east coast of Spain are also quite smart people in rice, even they don´t do too much clean up the rice as it must be done and as the orientals do, but they can provide a good tip when after finishing their famous paella, in some places at least, they cover totally the sauce pan with a piece of clean and breathable cooking clothing, firstly wet and then drained, for about the last five minutes before serving. This way and due to a physycal well known effect all the humidity comes up throughout the cooking clothing, the natural flavours enhance themselves and the rice looks transparent like little pearls because of the water excess´s evaporation process.

  19. Sanaz says:

    Tell me about it Lucy! I love watching cooking shows more than doing it. The competition I follow is “Masterchef Australia”.

    It’s entertaining and exciting. And while I’m watching it, I acquire many english words related to cooking.

    I like to cook as well, but generally I follow my instinct to make my own recipes. I love this part of cooking because of the creativity.


Comments are closed.