LS: Bruce Cameron Column October 05, 2008

Too many cooks spoil generational meal

My father thinks he’s a great cook because he was a surgeon.

“Chop the onions this size,” he barks, demonstrating with a deft slice of his knife. “Add two teaspoons of salt. No, you idiot, that’s not how you do it. Code blue! Code blue!”

In other words, my father thinks he’s a great cook because he has the skill to order other people to make a great meal.

I, on the other hand, know I am a great cook because I’m a writer. One time I even wrote a proposal for a cookbook, thinking no publisher would turn down an opportunity to publish a bunch of what I considered to be really hilarious recipes.

“They just don’t like your meals,” my agent told me. “They said your Strawberry Broccoli Lasagna was especially bad. Plus, they said it looked like a homicide.”

I was astounded to hear it. “You mean to tell me they actually made the recipes?” I demanded. This struck me as being unfair.

“They have to test all the recipes, to make sure that you aren’t just making them up to be supposedly funny,” he explained.

“Where,” I thundered, “do you think recipes come from, the Bible? They’re all made up!”

“Some of these, if eaten, would certainly constitute a Last Supper,” he responded.

“OK, now who is being supposedly funny?”

I hung up, feeling grievously wronged. I’d put a lot of effort into coming up with recipes no one had ever heard of before, like Flounder Pudding and Bananas Zamboni. Why were publishers so determined to deprive people of my Backstroke Cookies, my Tapioca and Tuna Treats?

“If I used regular ingredients, it would wind up tasting like normal food,” I complained to my father.

“Who wants to eat that?”

“You’re slicing the zucchini wrong!” he shouted, though the supportive way he said it indicated he obviously agreed with me.

My son thinks he’s a great cook because he’s in college and he’s so starving that whatever he cooks tastes delicious. I showed him some of my recipes.

“OK, I’d never do any of these,” he said. “Except maybe the Pizza Stroganoff.”

We were standing in the kitchen — my father, my son and I, three generations of male Camerons, working in concert to make dinner as contentious as possible.

My father, naturally, wanted everyone to do what he said and be glad about it — we would prepare a salad, cook potatoes, set the table and clean up after dinner, while he grilled the fish and supervised in his kindly way. I always pictured my father, as a doctor, having the bedside manner of a drill sergeant.

My son was more of the “every man for himself” philosophy: We should stand in the kitchen, grabbing whatever looked good, stuffing it in our faces and then probably going out to the garage for a game of beer pong. Why put a salad in a bowl if you can assemble it in your mouth?

“If you eat without plates, it’s easier to clean up,” he stated sensibly. “We don’t really need silverware, and we can drink beverages right out of the container.”

My father’s expression clearly communicated that he didn’t care about making it easier to clean up since he wouldn’t be doing it.

Having almost sold a cookbook full of innovative, perhaps even Nobel-Prize-worthy recipes, I felt pretty strongly that I should cook the fish and not do any other work, though as a compromise I was willing to let my dad grill as long as he agreed to the not-doing-any-other-work part.

Oddly, both my father and my son thought I was exactly the wrong person to be in charge, thus proving that old adage about insanity hitting every other generation.

Being reasonable men, we settled the dispute by arguing the issue for what seemed like four hours.

Finally, famished, we apparently agreed that my father should overcook the fish, I should undercook
the potatoes and my son’s salad should consist of whole carrots, whole radishes, whole tomatoes and a huge hunk of lettuce — less a salad than a vegetable drawer on a plate.

We’re still fighting over who should do the dishes.

To write Bruce Cameron, visit his Web site at


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