My friend Dan has been teaching me how to cook for a few months. Dan has been cooking for close to 20 years, and he apprenticed in a kitchen in Argentina. Nintendo DS's America's Test Kitchen, a popular PBS program turned into an instructional cooking software "game" with 300 step-by-impossibly-detailed-step recipes, can also teach you how to cook, but does so without mentioning how many stamps are in its passport. I decided to pit man against machine to see who was the better instructor, the flesh-and-blood, South American-trained gourmand or the company that brought you The Legend of Zelda. For the first competition, we chose a tomato-and-mozzarella tart because it offered a good mixture of prep (rolling dough, slicing tomatoes, grating cheese) against balanced, must-be-followed baking directions.
When Dan and I begin cooking, we wash our hands, fill our wineglasses, and turn on some music—preferably something old-timey that makes you want to drink (think Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughan). The Nintendo starts off by asking you to fill out personal information and blaring some sort of clown-car Muzak. Completing census information and hearing an oboe die is a bad start.
Here the Nintendo is actually pretty sweet. The top half of the screen gives you tips and advice ("to prevent the crust from being soggy, bake it through before adding the tomatoes") while the bottom half lets you select ingredients, view steps, and start cooking. Dan usually barks, "chop this, rinse that, shut the fuck up about Lost."