'Soup or salad?' the waiter inexcusably asks me, forgetting that my main course came with neither. Persistent she was and so I had to make the choice that all of us must make whenever we are to employ Cookmanship with any degree of efficacy. Soup, or salad?
How you count time, just like how you measure a mountain's height, is of most vital importance. When declaring the time spent cooking – for the official records and for the coursework later in the term – the aspiring Cookman should only look at when they physically started to prepare the meal, not taking into account when exactly they bought some of the long life ingredients or even when the vegetables involved were grown. Don't follow the example of Scribbenshaft, who took it to the logical extreme and boldly claimed that her meal had been being prepared since the start of time itself, the Big Bang creating the universe and the galaxy and the sun which ultimately provided energy for the julienned carrots in her salad. She basked too long in that notion and was lost, unable ever to cook again in a timely manner. She simply ceased to be, not to mention the noticeable decline in quality of her pastry crusts.
The importance of or
Everyone must take one method in cooking a meal, with regards to its preparation. One can decide to take months in advance, though of course, not if you're making a salad, in which case you must necessarily take the other approach, which is to spend as little time as possible in preparation. I have handily named the two methods thusly: Soup, or Salad (note the use of the word 'or', as well as 'salad' and 'soup'. Always notice every word I write.).
Apart from their eponymous dishes being almost exclusive to either school, almost any meal can have either method applied. Never try to mix up the methods in an attempt to outdo oneself, much like Scribbenshaft did in claiming the preparation of her salad took an eternity; the college doesn't provide insurance for the type of injury likely to be sustained in souping your salad, or dressing your soup, to metaphorically put it. We can only hope that in a universe where Scribbenshaft decided to combine her carrots with a sprig of coriander in a fine soup she might not have been reduced to the gibbering mess that she is in our universe. Alas for dear Scribbenshaft, as well as the integrity of salads the world over.
The soup school (comprising only the most refined Soupsmiths, with occasional crossover from the SIpsmiths, in strictest rivalry with the Worthington Gluggers) teaches that as long as is physically feasible and possible should be spent preparing a dish, even if it is only the soup offered to start a meal, ultimately forgotten when they get a good look at your nut roast.
Creating a dish that requires a stock to be made well in advance of the main soup is ideal. Look to the Koreans and their devious deployment of kimchi, made months in advance of any given stew, allowing the triumphant chef to accurately claim that the meal was three months in the making (if they're being modest).
The intent is not to boast about the effort that went into the meal, so as to divert the tasks of washing up, for instance. Intimating the amount of thought that was put into the dish is the goal. It means that you started planning this dish before your guest even realised they were invited over for dinner. And yes, the dishes being done by someone else is a pleasant side effect.
Of course, you can do the exact opposite of the soup method, and throw your dish together at the last possible moment, claiming to be caught unawares by the dinner, so busy are you. Your guests are left feeling guilty to have forced you to cook for them, will choke down whatever you have cooked, and claim it is the greatest meal ever created by a human being.
This is best employed on a starter or side dish, noting their status as something that is forgotten in maelstrom of dinner. Leftovers are suited to the salad method, though any good Cookman will of course make a 'leftover' dinner from scratch, much to the ignorance of your guests. This is the false salad approach, claiming the preparation time was low, while it was really a souper effort. A more modern approach, caution is advised when employing it, as Scribbenshaft could attest, were she not gazing out the window at a carrot field, unable to say anything at all.