Necessaries in the Kitchen or Zombies Don’t Care What Their Food Tastes Like

Grilled steak, caramelized onions, roasted artichokes
Grilled steak, caramelized onions, roasted artichokes

It’s always surprising to both Yes!Chef! and me when people sing such high praises for Yes!Chef!’s food.  Yes, his food is quite tasty, but it is usually simple food.  But we frequently hear things such as, “This is the best chicken I have ever had,” and “What did you put on this to make it so flavorful?” (answer is usually salt), or “What can I do to make my food taste like this?” and finally, “Will you adopt me?”

Obie, you are already adopted.
Obie, you are already adopted.

Yes!Chef! is usually guided by three things when he cooks:  1)  Best/freshest possible product as close as possible to it’s natural state (he doesn’t slaughter his own chickens, but you know what I mean)

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2)Strict attention to detail and process when he’s cooking,

Pay Attention to Details
Pay Attention to Details

and 3)Simple methods of preparation (even though sometimes the preparation/cooking time is time consuming.)

The final item really goes-without-saying: it has to appeal to his tastiness meter.  In other words, he doesn’t want to make it if it doesn’t sound good to him.

I ran across an interesting article about Pantry items that every kitchen must have to make Low-Budget meals.  Here it is if you want to read it over at The Kitchn blog:  10 Low-Budget Items Everyone Should Have.   I realize these are Low Budget items, but I would probably not have “cans of tuna” or bananas on any list of “must haves”.  Although Yes!Chef! likes bananas (I’m not real crazy about them), he won’t touch canned tuna, so I’m equally sure that item would not be on his list.  Remind me to tell you about the time I made Tuna Casserole for him shortly after we were married.  Suffice it to say that I never made it again.

It got me to thinking about what Yes!Chef! considers “must haves” in the kitchen in order to make flavorful food. So, I asked him what his top ten items are.   At first he shrugged as if he had never thought about it.  Then we had this conversation:

Y!C!: Salt and Pepper.

Me:  Okay.

Y!C!: Oh, and carrots, celery and onions to make a good mirepoix.


Me:  That’s all?

Y!C!:  (Shrugs)

Me:  Salt and pepper and mirepoix?

Y!C!:  Probably chicken stock base and sugar and flour.

Me:   I think most people probably have sugar and flour.

Y!C!: Oh, right. (thinks for a minute and looks around the kitchen.)


Y!C!:  How many items have you written down.

Me:  Three

More silence

Me:  What ingredients do you always have on hand or that you always make sure you get at Costco?

Even more silence


Y!C!: Peanut butter.

Me:  Peanut butter?

Y!C!: For breakfast. (he smiles because he likes peanut butter toast in the morning.  It’s his favorite. )

He thinks he's hilarious
He thinks he’s hilarious


Here’s his list of must haves as far as I could pry out of him.

  1. Kosher Salt and pepper
  2. onions, carrots and celery (for mirepoix)
  3. tomatoes in season or if not, canned tomatoes and paste
  4. chicken and beef base (we use Better than Bouillon)
  5. Butter
  6. Red Pepper flakes/Ground Chipotle Pepper/Sriracha or something else with a kick
  7. garlic
  8. eggs
  9. olive oil
  10. acid, such as limes, lemons or vinegar
  11. Parmesan Cheese
  12. bacon

and peanut butter (for his breakfast)

Yes!Chef!'s Must haves
Yes!Chef!’s Must haves

Now understand that not many of these things will make a meal very well by themselves  (well, you might be able to cobble a meal together with these things, but I wouldn’t try.)  But, add some fresh vegetables and/or some good chicken/beef/pork and you can make a tasty meal.  Most of our weeknight meals are put together on the fly by Yes!Chef! using these items and meat that he purchased on sale.

Barbecued chicken with roasted Brussels Sprouts and grapes.  Simple and tasty
Barbecued chicken with roasted Brussels Sprouts and grapes. Simple and tasty

Yes!Chef!  used bottled barbecue sauce on the above chicken after he grilled it.  Before grilling, he seasoned it with salt, pepper, and a kick of spice. The Sprouts were roasted in the oven with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Simple and flavorful.

In order to save money, Y!C! usually purchases large quantities at Costco.  We always have frozen whole chickens and chicken thighs and legs in the freezer.  We usually have some sort of frozen fish in the freezer.  He buys pork shoulders and large pieces of beef to grind his own sausage and hamburger.  And, if we run out of these things, he will whip up bacon and eggs for dinner.  Bacon and eggs are good anytime.

Yes!Chef! and I have a theory that many people have never tasted food the way it is supposed to taste when it is properly seasoned and properly cooked. And this is why many people who have tasted his food are so impressed with the flavor. We have all watched the cooking shows such as  “Restaurant Impossible” and “Kitchen Nightmares”.  These restaurants are failing because of bad food.  They may also have a dated or dirty restaurant and bad service, but the biggest issue is always the food.  The owners always say that their food is wonderful and everybody loves their food.  If so, where are the patrons?  It’s always about the food. And their food is bad.

Then there are home cooks in such shows as “Worst Cooks in America”.   They have no clue how to cook or even how the food is supposed to taste. (Whatever happened to Home Economics in school?)

In all these shows, when the participants are shown how food is supposed to be seasoned and cooked, they are amazed at how wonderfully flavorful food can be. Even the simplest of recipes.

Here’s the secret:  find out what good food is supposed to taste like (and you won’t necessarily find that out at a restaurant), learn how to properly season your food before you cook it and cook the food properly (DO NOT OVERCOOK).

Just having the above items in your kitchen will not instantly give you great tasting food.  But, with proper use, your food will be more flavorful when you use these items in your cooking.


Now, about those Zombies.

2013 Guns, guts, glory-548 web

2013 Guns, guts, glory-580 web 2013 Guns, guts, glory-667 web

2013 Guns, guts, glory-342 web

2013 Guns, guts, glory-653 web

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I spied these guys one day when I was driving around somewhere in the middle of California.  They were hanging out in the same area where those huge windmills are located.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I’m here to tell you that Zombies don’t care if their food is seasoned or cooked properly.  They do, however, care about how fresh it is.


And here are some homegrown zombies.  (My fam.)  They are a lot cuter…

20130505-_LS_5153 web 20130505-_LS_5157 web

Lesson here is obvious:  Don’t Be a Zombie. Make tasty food.


Published by

Karen Schmautz


18 thoughts on “Necessaries in the Kitchen or Zombies Don’t Care What Their Food Tastes Like

  1. I completely agree with YC’s list. I always forget about chicken stock base, though. I always have stock on hand but restaurants use base so why can’t I? Loved all the photos, but the ones of Yes! Chef! being a goofball are my favorite. 🙂

  2. Everything you have on the list is great plus:

    –almond butter
    –olives, 2 -3 kinds
    –preserved lemons
    –good vinegars
    –goat’s milk butter
    –good yogurt


    1. Great additions. I don’t think we’ve ever used goats milk butter. We will have to try it. I’ve been wanting to used preserved lemons for a while now. I’ll have to check out your blog for a recipe.

      1. We don’t have our recipe–yet–on the blog. But it’s coming up. We wanted to wait until I could photograph Talib, the man who taught Jody, making them himself. Which reminds me, there’s one other thing I omitted–dukkah–it’s an Egyptian toasted nut and spice mixture that you can sprinkle on everything from salad, to steel-cut oats, to grilled fish. And we do have a recipe on the blog for that. Thanks for your comments, by the way. ken

  3. Great post! I love to use fresh produce and my main goal when cooking us to enhance and compliment flavors not over powering or masking them. Well done Y!C! And Mrs. Y!C!😀

  4. […] And the Blog Nominations Are… Sophie Food Files The Garum Factory Images of China Through English Eyes Food is My Life (makes me want to move to Taiwan!) Dear Kitty. Some Blog Ann Novek: With the Sky as the Ceiling and the Heart Outdoors Andy: Photographer, Traveller, and Chef Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide Witchin’ in the Kitchen Annie’s Cooking Lab Afternoon Popcorn Snack Elizabeth Thomas Photography From Swerve of Shore Lightly Crunchy We Call Him Yes! Chef […]

  5. Fantastic post and funny, too! Some people try too hard to over-complicate their food when, like you said, it’s often just a matter of using good ingredients and seasoning correctly.

      1. Ah! TOTALLY meant to say GAL. Now I sound like a gender confused chicken lover. Ha! But seriously, those are 3 of my favorite things and I think we should hang out sometime and discuss your chickens’ social soap operas while debating oil preferences. I’ll be stopping by a lot!

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