There’s usually a modicum of truth and fact in every trite phrase and/or axiom. So here we have an age-old saying; “Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth”. According to Wikipedia, the definition of this phrase is:
“If too many people try to take charge at a task, the end product might be ruined.
also this means that where there are too many people trying to do something they make a mess of it.”
Well,… NOT ALWAYS!
Yesterday my cousin Janet and her husband, Danny and my cousin Marian stopped by for a visit on their way home from a short stay in Cape May. I knew they were coming (I should have baked a cake) so I got up early and took off for the fruit and vegetable stand to buy the ingredients for Gazpacho. It was already ridiculously hot and although this was MY day off and I wanted to get some tan, I knew they would not want to go to the beach. And that by the way has been the story of my summer so far, but that’s another story!
I had several other grocery stops to make before they arrived because I certainly did not want to attempt to move the car on Saturday and lose my parking space – Hey I thought I was in Ocean Grove, not Manhattan! Anyway by the time I got the Gazpacho slightly underway they arrived. My kitchen was in the throes of a Julia Child meltdown, bowls everywhere, knives of all sizes out, cutting boards galore….well I sat Danny down with the New York Times and my cousins and I repaired to the kitchen.
Luckily I come from a family of capable cooks and cleaner-uppers and so without much discussion, soon all three of us were busily chopping, juicing, peeling, slicing and mixing. Sounds like a well-oiled machine right? Or at least a kitchen with competent line cooks. Well, that’s a half truth since we are all competent but we didn’t have set places in the line!! If you are a cook, you are beginning to get the picture.
Added to the fact that 3 cooks in the kitchen are inevitably in each other’s way, we compounded the problems by the fact that we were creating two dishes and some of the ingredients were the same. Pretty soon the kitchen was humming with the sound of food processor as Janet ran the tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cucumber through the machine. Peter arrived with the much-needed tomato juice (I had forgotten to buy it-it wasn’t on the list) and I kept running back and forth between my two recipe cards trying to explain to Marian how to make the Tuna-Fennel-Bean salad. She’s mincing where we should be chopping and also telling me that the recipe didn’t call for this much of this or that. I wanted to expand the recipe so it would feed all five of us. Then I realized I didn’t have enough lemon juice but Janet who travels with a well-stocked pantry in her car, runs out and comes back with a lemon. So now we are adding lemon juice to both recipes, zesting into the Tuna dish and rinsing beans. I look at the front of the recipe card and realize I don’t have any chives;(something I had promised myself I would check before I left for the store. OK, we all agree, Gazpacho without chives will still be great. However, Marian does mention that probably when we all taste it, we’ll agree it should have had chives. The parsley is out on the counter…. I zip over to where Marian is working at the kitchen table and look at that recipe card and realize I don’t have any scallions! Geez, who the heck made the grocery list??? Consensus of cousins decide to use onion powder and not fresh onion because Danny can’t eat them raw. I had considered going out to my lawn where wild onions grow and use the stalks.
Now here’s where things began to fall apart. I had committed to opening the door to a friend’s house for a delivery. The time had come to do so. Since I was elbow-deep in peeling and chopping hot tomatoes that I had just peeled, I sent Peter and Danny to do so. NO, I did NOT have the address, I just knew where it was. That was a predictable disaster. Peter calls me from his cell phone to say there is no beige house, there is no delivery truck. Thinking this is typical Peter I yell at him and hang up. He calls back saying he can’t find it so in exasperation, I tell him to come back and pick me up. I’m pretty sure my cousins can handle the kitchen without me. Long story short-I had given him the wrong street.
When I returned the kitchen was practically cleaned up. Janet was washing bowls, Marian was drying, the food processor had disappeared. Wow, they are fast and efficient. I look around and see the parsley still out and tell Janet, “uh oh, we forgot to put the parsley in”. Not to worry, we will chop it up fine and throw in. Then I turn the card over (you see I am the only one checking the recipe) and once again the big “UH OH” comes out. We didn’t put the olive oil or the red wine vinegar in either! Yes we can add it BUT by now the batch of Gazpacho was too big for one bowl so I had taken some out to put in another bowl. So just what proportions should I be adding red wine vinegar and olive oil?? Competent cook know what to do and when to punt…. The Tuna-Fennel-Bean salad has come together, the last of the tomato mess in the kitchen has been cleaned up (although this morning I found tomato splash spots on the toaster) and God, it must be time for a drink!
When Janet and Danny visit, we have a tradition of drinking Mojitos of which Danny is the master maker. I pick some mint from the yard, assemble the rum, limes, muddler and seltzer. Mmmm there doesn’t seem to be that much rum which I was sure I had, and then realized I had more dark rum (for Dark & Stormy’s). Janet says not to worry because of course she has rum in the car – I told you she traveled with a pantry. I take out my simple syrup which Janet has deemed not sweet enough so she goes out to the car and brings back a container of syrup – see what I mean!
And here’s where I’m going to end my story. We had drinks, we yakked, we sat down to eat. EVERYTHING was delicious! It would have been nice to have a crusty loaf of French or Italian bread but we didn’t and still the meal was a communal success!