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I Don’t Cook, But I Do Eat

By Lydia Hope Wilen / New York City

For great recipes, see Bonnie Fishman.  For survival tactics -- tips, ingredient substitutes, food facts, shortcuts, safety pointers, a corny joke, and a food recommendation, keep reading.

Which Way to the Kitchen?

Ah yes, the room with the range, refrigerator, microwave and the sink. I just discovered that there is a word for the fear of cooking. The word is “mageirocophobia.” I now have a new fear–having to pronounce that word.

You Take the Cake

If I had to bake a cake for company, I would buy a cake mix because I know how to make it extra fluffy. Simply replace the egg, oil and water with soda. Chocolate cakes mix best with cola and vanilla cakes mix best with orange soda.

Getting a Rise out of This

Most baked goods -- cakes, cookies, bread – require a leavening agent. If your recipe calls for yeast and you don’t have it, chances are you have baking powder. recommends it as a good substitute because the carbon dioxide in baking powder expands when wet and causes the dough to rise.

An A-Peeling Process
An A-Peeling Process

An Eggs-cellent Tip

Hard-boiling an egg is easy. Peeling the shell off the egg is another story. If you are hard-boiling many eggs in order to honor the tradition of eating a hard-boiled egg on Easter Sunday, or for a Passover seder, or if you want to prepare deviled eggs for company, here’s a wonderful way to make egg peeling fast and efficient: Once the eggs are hard-boiled, completely cover them in a bowl of ice water and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes. Then you can easily de-shell those eggs.

An Eggs-tra Tip

When you crack an egg and a little piece of shell falls into the bowl, use a big piece of shell to help get it out. There’s a kind of magnet-like attraction…shell to shell.

What’s in a Name?

White chocolate is not chocolate. It doesn’t have any of the components of real chocolate. It’s just a mixture of sugar, milk, vanilla, lecithin and cocoa butter. Stick with real dark chocolate for a treat and for its health benefits.

My Two Faves

My Two Faves

Product Recommendation: Impostor Pasta

Explore Cuisine has plant-based pasta from certified organic and dedicated gluten-free facilities. The pasta is outrageously high in protein and fiber, fairly low in carbs, very easy to prepare (even for me) and tastes good and goes well with whatever you do with pasta. Look for Explore Cuisine in your supermarket or buy it online.

Herb Fact

Oregano tastes better dried than fresh.


We were raised to believe that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. That belief stemmed from a marketing campaign by General Foods in 1944. It was their way to boost sales of their cereal, Grape Nuts. And it worked for them.

Is it right for you? Breakfast can help kick-start your metabolism for the day. Pay attention to how you feel after eating breakfast and on a day without breakfast. Your body and your choice.

Served as Pancakes for Breakfast
Served as pancakes for breakfast

My Father’s Standard Joke

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


“Bisquick” who?

“Bisquick! Your pants are on fire!”

It’s My Jam…or Is It My Jelly?

Jam and jelly are not the same. Jam is made with pieces of fruit. Jelly is made with fruit juice. So if what you spread on bread has little chunky pieces, that’s jam. If it spreads on smoothly, you’ll know it’s jelly. Or just look at the label on the jar.

Unripe, Mostly Ripe, Ripe
Unripe, Mostly Ripe, Ripe

Does This Ring a Bell?

Do you know the difference between a green bell pepper and a red bell pepper? It came as a surprise to me to learn that the red bell pepper is a ripened green bell pepper. As the pepper ripens and changes color, it also dramatically increases its sweetness, beta-carotene and vitamins A and C.

You may want to keep that in mind next time you’re in the produce aisle.

Corkscrew Screwup

Your guest brought a bottle of wine and you can’t find the corkscrew. To safely open the bottle of wine, take a car key and insert the key at a slight angle. Turn the key in circles as you pull up the key in the cork. It works, but first you have to buy a car.

Once you have the empty bottle of wine, peel off the label and keep the bottle if you want to bake and you don’t have a rolling pin. Rolling out dough works perfectly fine with an empty bottle of wine.

Gotta Hand it to Ya’

“Avocado Hand” and “Bagel Hand” are the medical terms used when a person gets a laceration on the palm of their nondominant hand. It happens when they are holding a knife in their dominant hand and cutting an avocado or bagel that’s being held in their other hand. If you insist on holding the avocado or bagel while cutting it, use a serrated knife. The sawing action needed when using a serrated knife (especially a dull one) gives you control, unlike when using a sharp straight edge knife that can slip and cut your hand in an instant.

Pumpernickel, Please
Pumpernickel, please

Bagel and Bread Name History

There is a lot written about how and why the name “pumpernickel” came to be. The dark, brawny German-born bread was made with rye flour, molasses and sour dough starter for a dough that would bake at low heat for a full day. This process caused a side effect: flatulence. And so the name “pumpernickel” came to be. “Pumpern” means to “to break wind”. “Nickel” is for “goblin” or “devil”. Put it all together American translation style and “pumpernickel” amounts to “a devil’s fart.”

American pumpernickel bakers sped up the original process by using yeast and wheat flour, making for a lighter loaf that’s easier on the digestive tract. But the name stayed the same.

It’s a Wrap
It’s a Wrap

Going Bananas

If you bought a few bananas that you don’t want to ripen quickly, pull the bananas apart and wrap each stem in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. That will help prevent the stems’ release of ethylene, the gas that controls ripening. When the bananas are ripe, eat one and refrigerate the rest. Yes, the skin will turn black, but the bananas will keep their firmness for a few days. After that, the mushy overripe bananas can be used to make banana bread.

Just like the caption on the banana picture, it’s a wrap. I hope you learned something new that may come in handy.

Please keep looking for me in The Insider...but not in the kitchen.


Lydia Hope Wilen had a successful collaboration with her late sister Joany as nonfiction bestselling authors (18 books), journalists, TV personalities, writers and talent coordinators on a Nickelodeon series hosted by Leonard Nimoy, Reading Rainbow episodes, skit writers for Dr. Ruth's TV show, Diet America Challenge on CBS, and writers of screenplays (optioned but not produced yet).

Lydia is writing on her own now and has just completed an extraordinary book for young people and their parents. It will have them laughing and learning...once she gets an agent and it gets published.



Apr 13, 2023

Lydia and I have much in common. I buy cake, not bake, eat but don't cook. Now I know how to peel eggs (where was this info before Passover?). Never did favor Pumpernickel, especially bagels (ugh). Here's where we differ- I live in a big house in NJ, by myself ladies, not in one of those $5,000 a month NYC apartments where the Living Room and the Bedroom are the same room.

Love your writing, Lydia.



Donald L. Vasicek
Donald L. Vasicek
Apr 13, 2023

Thank you for the tips, Lydia. Your article has found a permanent place in our kitchen! I hope this finds all well with you! Take care and keep up your good work. Best Regards, Don Vasicek


Apr 13, 2023

... Now I know why I have never been invited for dinner - thank you for that! Michael S


Apr 13, 2023

And what’s so bad about a little flatulence? Plenty. Thanks for the pumpernickel lore. Love the stuff.



Apr 13, 2023

Lydia Wilen-I will never stop learning from you--the gift of a great writer, theater, cooking, you name it and I am the lucky one to garner all of this good stuff--keep it coming--J.T.

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