The chef’s dilemma

You prepare your chicken stock by boiling four pounds of excavated chickens with onion, carrot, leeks, and fresh herbs. You simmer that for a full day. The following evening, you reheat the chicken stock. As it warms up, you mince garlic, onion, and red peppers. You crush saffron and add it to the stock. In a large cast-iron pan you heat some oil and sauté some chicken thighs. You slice a chorizo, grate a tomato and toss both into the pan, along with the vegetables. When that browns, you add several cups of uncooked rice and let that sizzle with everything else. Once everything gleams and steams, add the stock into the pan. Let that simmer for 30 minutes. Once the rice has soaked everything up, tuck some shrimp, piquillo peppers, and anything else you fancy in there. Make sure not to disturb the bottom of the pan. Keep the pan over that heat. You want to hear a sizzle. Thats the rice at the bottom of your pan caramelizing. That crust, called the socarrat, is the key to a perfect paella.

You bring the hot pan to your eager friends. They’ve been talking and laughing and sipping (okay, slurping) white wine while you conjured your magic in the kitchen. Exhausted and excited, you plop into your chair alongside them. Salud.

They scarf down your creation in five minutes flat. Noisily, gleefully, gratefully… and rapidly.

The chef’s dilemma: they will spend less time, care, and attention eating your food than you will spend making it.

He spends four years on his followup album. They listen to it once while responding to emails and burp out an opinion over their lunch break.

She spends the better part of her twenties observing, sketching, painting. They walk through her debut gallery, stop in front of each piece for fifteen seconds and nod.

That violent asymmetry of time, care, and attention. A devotional injustice. The chef’s dilemma.

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