Superstition, codex, Murphy’s Law? None of those seem to fit. Captains name their boat after women, some hotels omit the 13th floor, and it’s said drug dealers never put a hat on a bed. Maybe kitchen voodoo is the best way to describe the following feral notions, not to be shooed away by logic but left to tumble around in my brain like a bad penny.
If only I didn’t know the following, I’d be a content skeptic:
- I worked with two cooks who believed that since they’d worked the grill station for a decade, they would die "medium-well." They prompted me to pinch their forearms as test to the effect of the constant heat. Indeed, they did have the same doneness feel of a medium-well pork chop.
- You can smell when a dish needs more salt or is too salty. Cupping the steam arising from a simmering sauce, you can tell if it needs tweaking
- Without looking, you can hear the stages of cooking; when a sauce is perfectly reduced or a filet needs another minute of searing: each stage has its own sound.
- If the night’s special is any type of seafood, the servers will oversell it. A cook can call “86 the scallops” but 45 minutes later the kitchen will get an order for two more. A seasoned cook knows enough to keep at least a few orders in his “pocket” to thwart this phenomenon.
- “The first is for the pan” means a cook must pay alms to the pan gods by offering the first crepe/pancake prepared.
- A double yolk in one egg brings good luck; a bloody yolk is a bad omen.
- A cook that is sad (heartbroken or grieving) should not whip cream or it will curdle.
- The Five Second Rule: Food that hits the floor is still servable if not on the ground for more than five seconds. Oddly, this most famous kitchen adage is very rare in practice, because the caveat to this rule is the greater karmic law of any cook: whatever you serve up will come back to you tenfold, good and bad.