So Andrea and I were talking on Friday about learning to cook and, in particular, how I used to really drive her nuts with stupid questions when I was taking my first culinary steps in the kitchen. Now, when I say “stupid questions,” I mean really stupid questions not “emperor’s new clothes” kind of stupid questions. The latter kind of stupid questions are understandable and have a certain aura of respectability. For example, while the question “Hey, honey, this recipe says that I need to ‘julienne’ the carrots. What does that mean?” might seem like a stupid question to someone who already knows their way around a kitchen, for the novice it’s a perfectly understandable question. My wife was always more than happy to answer those sorts of questions (provided that she knew the answer, of course…).
No, the stupid questions that drove her nuts were ones along the lines of “Honey, the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Where’s the cooking oil?” Questions that, even in my novice state, I should have been able to answer easily if I had just stopped and spent five seconds thinking about it. I mean, it’s not like I hadn’t seen her get the oil out of the cabinet a hundred times. Heck, it’s not like I couldn’t have, through the process of elimination, figured out what cabinet it was in. I was just having a momentary brain lapse, one that occurs less frequently now that: a) I know my way around the kitchen, and b) my wife’s standard answer was something along the lines of “Well, have you looked for the cooking oil?”
The point of the conversation, ultimately, was that no matter how hard one tries it’s sometimes impossible to avoid asking stupid questions like this. The best we can do is draw up a little social contract: I, the undersigned, do solemnly agree to think before I ask a question so as to minimize the chance of asking a stupid question; you, the other undersigned, do solemnly agree to not call me an idiot when I do ask a stupid question, understanding that such things do, occasionally, happen. As long as each of us keeps up our side of the bargain, everyone gets along just fine.
I was reminded of this conversation today when, in response to a technical problem I’m having, I sent out an email to a large email alias describing my problem and asking if anyone was aware of it. About 30 seconds later, I got responses from several people (including Dare) pointing out that my exact problem had been discussed four days ago on the exact same alias. Fortunately, everyone was very nice about it and no one said anything to the effect of “here’s the answer, you moron.” As they say: sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug…
(As a side note, the one indispensible aid I have found in my quest for culinary mastery is the updated The Joy of Cooking. Besides having lots of good receipes, that thing has saved my rear more times than I care to think. Highly recommended.)