One of the great joys in my life is dining with friends- whether cooking or being served. Very often, however, I find myself in a curious situation:
“I was so nervous making this for you, since you’re a chef and all…”
“Oh, I bet you could do it better….”
Other pro cooks and chefs I know have met with the same thing, serious and in jest.
I get it. I really do. Today’s pop culture has cranked up the image of the “celebrity chef” to 11, and whenever someone personally knows a chef, they immediately have clips of “Chopped” or “America’s Next Top Chef” running through their mind- an excoriating review of their works with sharp jokes, pointed criticism, and bitter rejection.
Anthony Bourdain, in one of his various interviews, answered this situation and others like with what he called the “Grandma’s Turkey Rule.” The allegory is as follows:
Your grandmother doesn’t cook very much, but when she does, it’s her Thanksgiving turkey- and it’s HORRIBLE. It’s dry. It’s under-seasoned. It’s over-salted. The gravy is brown water with lumps of starch floating in it like the memories of lost childhood dreams.
She’s proud of it, and she makes it once a year, for the family she loves.
Thanksgiving comes around, and you sit down and get served shingles of that wretched affront to the poultry world. What do you do?
According to Anthony Bourdain, you choke it down, smile, say thank you very much and ask for seconds.
This is the “Grandma’s Turkey Rule”- respect for authentic hospitality. Just as it’s important to be a gracious host, it is vital to be a gracious guest as well. Unless it is truly against your religion, or a medical reason keeping you from tucking in to what you’re served in someone’s house, you smile and eat.
People of the world, you are cooking.
You are cooking for US.
It is food you are giving us from the kindness of your heart, and that you have theoretically worked very hard on.
We will say thank you, and we will MEAN IT.
This is not a TV show. It is not a professional kitchen, and we are not at work.
We will simply be grateful that we are being fed.