The Mediocre HousekeeperÔ - Thyme for Some Sage Advice with Rosemary and Basil


By Bernard Levy



(Location:  Television sound stage for “Sage Advice,” an adventure in culinary exploration; filmed before a live audience.)


“Good morning, folks.  I’m Rosemary Green and…”


“And I’m Basil Browne.  It’s time to pick up that pan, unhook that pot and star-r-rt cookin’.  Rosemary, would you tell our audience what this show is all about?”


“Sure, Basil.  This program is different than most culinary shows.  We focus our attention on men in their fifties and older.  We believe there’s a tremendous need to help older  males find their way around the kitchen and prepare a meal without setting the house on fire.”


“That’s right, Rosemary.  Being divorced five times has forced me to learn to navigate through the uncharted waters of the kitchen and understand how the stove and oven work, stock the refrigerator and prepare meals.  But, there are many men, younger and older…”


“How old are ya’, Basil?”


“I’m in my sixth decade, if you insist.  Yes, I can identify with all those men who have either relinquished the kitchen work and, might I add, left the fun of cooking to their spouses or who have been told to get out of the kitchen because they’re not wanted.”


“I don’t believe that for a minute, Basil.  That’s a lot of bunk.  Every woman I know would gladly have her husband help her in the kitchen.  But, you’re right; men historically have difficulty getting up the gumption to cook or understand the art of cooking.”


“Let me add one thing, Rosemary, because it’s very important.  Many younger males do not avoid the kitchen.  Gertie, my last wife, and I had five sons between us, and all of them are proficient in the kitchen.  In fact, two are excellent chefs, and all prepared some darn good dinners.”


“Enough said, Basil.  Let’s get into today’s show.  Today, we’re going to introduce the audience to utensils and spices.  First, you’ll notice that I have some cans in front of me.  Although you don’t need to purchase these, I find them very useful.”


(Basil picks one up and reads the label aloud.)  “ ‘Pennally’s Dehydrated Water.’ ”  (He looks suspiciously at Rosemary and asks),  “How stupid do you think men are?  We all know that dehydrated water comes in plastic bottles, not cans.”


(They both laugh and Rosemary continues)  “Seriously,” (she remarks as she walks over to a table) “these are some of the utensils that you’ll use in preparing meals.  (She turns to Basil) “How many of these do you recognize?”


“Well, there’s your basic knife, fork, spook and whoosh,” (as he picks up a wire-intensive instrument).


“You mean a whisk.”


“No, I mean a whoosh, because when you use it, it goes ‘whoosh, whoosh.’ ”


(Rosemary realizes that she has to take back control of the show.)  “Okay, Basil, move aside.  I’m taking over.”  (Picking up the utensils, she continues)  “This is a strainer spoon used to serve vegetables that allows liquids to drain through.  This large spoon and fork are used for serving salad.  These are strainers of different sizes.  This little instrument is called a zester and is used to delicately peel lemons and limes for flavoring and garnishing dishes.  This is a peeler.  It peels the skins of potatoes and cucumbers, and this…”


“They look like forceps to me.”


“No, silly, these are tongs to pick up chicken and other cooked and uncooked foods.  These are individual tea strainers in case you want to purchase tea in bulk instead of tea bags, and this is…”


“Looks like a paintbrush.  In case our cooking is a disaster, we can always repaint the kitchen, right?” (Basil winks at the audience.)


“Wrong again.  This paintbrush-looking utensil is used to brush on butter, oil and condiments in preparing food.”


(Off camera, Basil puts on a suit coat and moves back to Rosemary’s side.)  “And, Rosemary,”  (opening his coat wide to reveal inside pockets holding various implements) “these are the really important kitchen tools,” (He says proudly.  Holding up a utensil, Basil continues)  “Everyone knows this one – even us guys – and without it, everyone in the kitchen would be lost.  It’s a combination can opener, church key and cork screw.  And, here are the important knives you’ll need, including those for paring, chopping, slicing and cutting breads and meats.”


(Turning to Rosemary, Basil declares)  “See, I know a little something.”


“Yes, you do, Basil. You do know a little something.  And, by the way,” (She walks over to the back of the kitchen set and points to the corner) “that is a pitchfork that can be used for many things, including hauling out some of the manure you’ve been spreading around here.”


“I guess you got me there.  Why don’t we get into some of the seasonings that our audience should know about?  Rosemary, why don’t we start off with your namesake?”


“Fine, we’ll do just that.”  (Rosemary holds up a spice jar.)  “This is rosemary, a well-used spice that’s great for potato and white bean dishes.


“And, while we’re at it, let’s do your name, Basil.  Basil is very versatile and an especially good seasoning for tomatoes. It can also be used in many vegetable, egg and cheese dishes.”


“Good, Rosemary, but let’s get into the heavy stuff now.  Everyone knows about the old standards – salt and pepper.  For those who are sodium sensitive, there are many good salt substitutes including something called ‘Mrs. Dash.’  But my favorite spice, or herb if you prefer, is garlic.  Mixed with lemon juice, it’s great in salad dressings and soups.  As everyone knows, it’s also great on pizzas, pastas and roast beef or prime rib.  I usually cut up a whole garlic – it’s called a bulb and …”


“Yes, Basil, I know.  Have you ever noticed that when you do, your neighbors and family avoid you?”  (Rosemary turns to the audience)  “There are many other useful spices including oregano, marjoram and dill.  Oregano is a necessary ingredient in stews and chili, but it can overwhelm other flavors if overused.  Dill is particularly good in creamy dressings and works best when it’s intended to be the central flavor and...”


“I know all about dill.  It’s excellent in tuna fish salad.”  (Basil chimes in.)


“Well, Basil, that’s about all the time we have for today.  Next week we are going to cover…”


(Basil interrupts)  “What’s this big flat thing here?”


“Why, Basil, I thought you’d never ask.  That’s a plate.  Next week we’re going to introduce the audience to pots, pans and tableware.  Any parting words of wisdom, Basil?”


“Gee, I thought plates were made of paper.  You don’t have to wash them, you just throw them away.  I am constantly amazed at the kitchen stuff I don’t have.”


“Are you sure you know your way around the kitchen?  Didn’t your wives serve meals on china tableware?”


“You know, come to think of it, we did have these around the house.  I guess I never took the time to notice.  Also, next week we’ll introduce you to other items that should be part of your kitchen supplies, including Band-Aids and antiseptics.  This is Basil Browne…”


“And Rosemary Green, signing off with our helpful hint for today:  don’t worry if the spaghetti doesn’t stick to the wall when you test it; most dogs will eat anything.”


“And, husbands, too.”  (Basil adds)


(A voice off camera)  “That’s a [gulp] take.”