Last week, I was making meatloaf. Look, you can just shut it. I hear you all out there about the meatloaf, but I make great meatloaf. There's a secret to it. A secret which I'm not going to tell you, because then I would have to share the "King of Meatloaf" title (which goes with my "King of Hamburgers" and "King of Fish" titles (there are probably more titles (like "King of Mashed Potatoes," according to my son but, really, how hard are mashed potatoes?), but those are the ones that come to mind right off hand (oh, and "King of Eggs," probably, too))), and I'm just not willing to do that.
So I was working from this recipe that my wife wanted me to look at (don't worry; I modified that recipe and made it my own), and it called for a "food processor." No, not in the meatloaf! What are you, crazy? It called for me to use a food processor with which to cut things up. Like the bread. Why in the world would I need a food processor to make little pieces of bread? That is kind of crazy.
See, I used to have a food processor. I kind of hated it. Okay, I did hate it, which is why I don't have it anymore. Unless you're making salsa or, like, a smoothie, the things are basically worthless. Recipes don't usually call for vegetable juice, and that's about the only good they're for. I used to use mine for meat (and that's about the closest you're getting to my cooking secrets), and it was great for that until it was time to clean the thing, and that was... well, to put it mildly, cleaning meat out of a food processor is a bitch. Sorry, I have no other way of putting that.
At any rate, eventually, I got rid of the food processor. I'm not much for making my own salsa.
It annoys me when recipes call for a food processor. I mean, what does it matter how I go about cutting up whatever it is I'm going to put into whatever I'm making. What if I don't want vegetable paste but actual discernible pieces of vegetables? I mean, we don't all have a phobia against plant matter like Briane Pagel and my younger son (except my son's bias is mostly against green things, and he fully supports potatoes (see "King of Mashed Potatoes")). And what if, you know, I don't own a food processor. Especially if that's not by choice. And, then, let's just pretend I don't have a lot of cooking experience, yet, and I see that the recipe calls for the food processor, and I don't actually know that I can just cut the stuff up myself. Instead, I see that in the recipe and I think, "Well, crap, I can't actually make this."
It's even worse when that is something that's actually true. Which does not happen with cooking, but it does happen with my kids' school assignments upon occasion. So many of my kids' assignments center around the computer, and it bothers me to no end when teachers give computer-centric assignments because not everyone owns a computer. In fact, there is still a significant percentage of American households that don't have computers. And I'm not just talking about the need to get something typed up and printed out (although we don't own a printer, so that always bugs me, and we have to go out of our way to get things printed for the kids when they need something printed).
The other day when I was making the meatloaf, my daughter was also working on an assignment for school, an assignment for her English class. In theory, the assignment should have been to write a report but, instead, the teacher had assigned them to make a slide show. This was disturbing to me on so many levels. For one, the assignment specifically required a computer (not just the ability to print something out (although I would guess that at least some of the students who do work on the computers at school do not have access to that work when they are at home; what are they supposed to do?)). For another, it required her to do things I know nothing about.
There should not be any kind of assignment from an English class that I know nothing about. Of course, I knew nothing about it because it was not really an English assignment. There was virtually no research involved as she only needed captions to go with the pictures. There was virtually no writing involved as she only needed to write the captions to go with the pictures. The actual work was finding the pictures she needed for her topic and putting them into the slide show thing. That's not the kind of thing that goes in an English class.
But, see, the thing that nailed it for me is that while I was chopping stuff up for the meatloaf (and I have to say that the clean up from chopping things is so much easier than cleaning up a food processor), she couldn't get something to work with her slide show, and I was completely unable to help her with that. Which is when I began wondering how the assignment was helping her to develop and kind of English skills.
All of that to say:
It's not always important to listen to the "how" of doing things. People will continually want to tell you the "how" of it, whatever the "it" is. Here is "how" to write a novel. Here is "how" to be an author. Here is "how" you should write. Here is "how" to pick your nose. What's more important, though, is to look at the result you want and figure out your own "how" on how to get there.
Which, I suppose, is where I have the issue with my daughter's assignment. I don't know what it is they were supposed to learn. It was classified as a "research project," but the "how" of presenting said (almost non-existent) research seemed to be the actual goal of the whole thing. Then, I have to ask: Why was that the goal of an English assignment? But I digress. Again.
So, anyway, if you need to have vegetables be in small pieces, what's the best way for you to do that? If you want to write a book, what's the best way for you to do that? You don't need to go out and buy a food processor just because a recipe says you should use one (especially if you don't like them to begin with (I mean, heck, some people still write on actual paper instead of using a keyboard)), and you don't need to have an office and office hours to write a book. Sure, there are some things where you need to follow a specific "how," like putting pictures into whatever slideshow thingy my daughter was using, but, sometimes, we come up with new ways to do things because someone doesn't know the "how" of it comes up with something new. Personally, I'd rather be that guy.