In terms of experimentation, I’m the type of guy who’s up for almost anything. I’ve taken a course at the Cordon Bleu, I’ve grown my own produce, and I’ve tasted so many unique foods it would feel too cliché to bore you with a list (but just to give you an idea I once ate fermented whale blubber). The point is, I’m a pretty big fan of all things new. Which is why, when tasked with cooking stripped-style, I thought instead of taking the Jamie Oliver approach and doing things with pared-down ingredients, simple preparations and no-fuss combinations, I’d take a more Ron Jeremy approach and go for a literal interpretation. So recipes in hand, I left my clothes behind and entered the kitchen.
I know I’m not the first person to try cooking au naturel. I distinctly remember a late-night show on City TV a few years back called Barely Cooking, in which ridiculously built guys and voluptuously gifted ladies pranced around a kitchen television studio wearing nothing but aprons. Episodes were aptly named “Sinful Desserts”, or “Saucy Sauces”, so you knew you were in for a good time. I never got tired of the hosts making trips to the pantry which would require them to turn to the camera and expose their behinds! (That’s quality television – I wonder why they aren’t making new episodes anymore?) Anyway, the point is that there used to be an entire show dedicated to naked cooking, so it’s not like I’m inventing the wheel here.
Even so, I couldn’t help but feel mildly apprehensive about being naked in my kitchen. I don’t know about where you live, but in my home, the kitchen is not usually a clothing-optional environment. Unless passing through en route from the shower, or dropping by the fridge for some Nutella or raspberries, I’m normally fully clothed in my favourite room of the house. But people must cook naked right? It’d be fun! It’s kind of sexy even! With the humidex above forty and in a house without air conditioning, it was clearly time to take my relationship with the kitchen to the next level.
I started my foray into naked cooking the way most people start a leisurely Sunday morning – with a mimosa. The blast of cold air from the fridge was a refreshing wake-up and I felt more liberated than usual as I poured last night’s cava into a half-full glass of orange juice. I was already starting to feel sexy. As I moved to the dining room to sit and relax I ran into my first problem – ground floor living might not be conducive to naked chefs. Jumping clear of the open window, I shimmied along the wall to close the curtains. I hope my neighbours didn’t see my mimosa… No sooner had I closed the curtains than I ran into my next snag – wooden dining chairs. Should I actually sit on them? I mean, I’m clean, but that’s not sanitary is it? Plus, I doubt a wooden seat is the most comfortable option for my business. Instead of making a decision, I left the dining room and headed back into the kitchen to start on some breakfast.
Having mentally prepared for my culinary adventure, I decided to make a breakfast that can prove dangerous even with the benefit of clothing – bacon and eggs. But instead of risking grease splatters, I opted to turn my oven to 400° and put the uncooked bacon on a parchment-lined baking tray. After 15 minutes in the oven, and a generous brushing of maple syrup mid-baking, I had deliciously crispy bacon without the customary grease burns to prove it. And yes, my house may have gone up another few degrees with the oven on, but no matter – a quick blast from the fridge cools everything down nicely.
While I waited for the bacon to cook, I took the initiative to wash yesterday’s dishes. As I rinsed the pots and pans clean, I realized one of the great benefits to not having any clothes on is that if you get splashed, you don’t have to walk around for the next couple of hours with wet pants. Content with my progress, I began drying. It was right about then that I noticed the kitchen is full of shiny surfaces. I was suddenly surrounded by distorted images of my body on the fridge door, the stove top, the kitchen faucet and the in pan I was holding - images which made me forego the eggs and grab a piece of fruit instead.
Having just barely survived my naked breakfast, it was time for my naked lunch. Still unclothed and still somewhat haunted by my earlier reflective experience, I opted for a salad. Regaining control of my domain, I chopped up some grape tomatoes, diced a celery stalk, minced some red onion and tore up some parsley. I pulled an English cucumber out of the crisper door but it didn’t make me feel much better about myself, so I decided my salad would go without. For some unrelated reason, shrimps came to mind, and I thought it would be a good idea to sear some off for my salad. I thawed and amply patted them down to make sure they’d be dry, then I dropped them into my heated olive oil and jumped away from the stovetop. Moments later, I was able to contort my body in a manner that allowed me to pull the shrimp from the splattering oil with minimal injury. This was helped largely in part by my longest pair of tongs, which I also was able to use to turn off the stovetop burner from afar.
Admittedly, naked cooking was getting old. But I pushed on – with plans for baking cookies for my friends. Surprisingly, the chocolate chip cookies came out great and I didn’t run into any problems unique to my nudie status. While they were baking, I thought of the jokes I’d use when talking about my naked chef experience – I may have even laughed out loud when I thought about special hairnets. But the cookies were no joke – they were delicious (and I have Anna Olsen’s recipe to thank for that)! However, when my friends discovered I had baked them naked, they weren’t interested in the flavour. Still troubled over my own naked reflection, I wasn’t in the mood for carbs.
I gave up not too long after that. My kitchen’s brief clothing-optional stint has come to an end. Naked cooking isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. If you’re going to try it, make sure you cook light things that don’t require hot oil, and that won’t invite comparison to your own assets. While it was fun to be wild and free, there wasn’t much sexy about being naked in my kitchen. Maybe that’s why Barely Cooking isn’t taping new episodes. Maybe that’s why health and safety regulations require proper clothing in commercial kitchens. Maybe that’s why you’ll never read a recipe that begins, “Take off your clothes and mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones.”
© 2008 Will Parker; licensee (Cult)ure Magazine.
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