Thursday, June 13, 2013

Better Chance of Converting to Islam Than...

Better Chance of Converting to Islam Than…

The Law of Unintended Consequences reared its ugly head recently.

We had gone on a 3 week trip to Europe, and while in Paris, one of the people we were with ran over to a sidewalk table on the Rue St Germaine to say hello to the Barefoot Contessa.

Barbara, who didn’t even know there was a food channel, had no idea who she was; and I knew who she was but had never watched her show or any other food show.  We haven’t seriously cooked, except for holidays, for at least 30 years, so there was no incentive to watch.

I was impressed that our friend could pick out the Barefoot Contessa from the crowd at the restaurant we were casually passing.  Maybe she was worth a look.

Once we got home, I watched her show a couple of times.

She made it seem so easy.  I figured I could do that.  How hard could it be?  She did it effortlessly.

I resolved to investigate further.

I watched Giada (another show) and she made it seem easy also (She must only eat what is on the show and nothing else all day.  That is the only explanation for how skinny she stays compared to the other people I subsequently saw on the food shows.).

I definitely could do this.

But first, I had noticed that both women used a food processor to make things easier. 

I decided I needed one to add to my collection of food related tools.  After all we did have a blender (30 years old sitting in a cabinet somewhere), a crock pot (which is still in its original box somewhere at the bottom of the linen closet) along with an ice cream maker only used once from when my son was a cub scout (at least I think we still have it).  

I told Barbara of my idea to cook more at home.  She thought it was a good idea if we did it together.  I agreed.

On my birthday, we went looking for Food Processors and other necessary equipment such as a Grilling Pan for a Gas Stove. 

Yes the same stove that was immaculate because Barbara was afraid to get it dirty and ruin its pristine appearance.  Times were a changing (Sorry Bob Dylan).

We set out to shop, but couldn’t find what we were looking for at a reasonable price. 

We also looked at something for me for my birthday. 

Barbara had a wonderful gift in mind.  She bought a purse at the Coach outlet store as my present, and since I had no use for it, she magnanimously decided to keep it. 

When I complained to my daughter about this, she told me it was a wonderful idea and why wasn’t she getting one too.  One of our friends also gave a similar reply. 

There is no justice!

I returned home, consulted with our cooking friend who advised me to forsake the cheap food processors, and bought a large Cuisinart  on line at a good price.  I also started looking for recipes that looked both easy and tasty.

I downloaded some recipes and Barbara and I decided on a few to start.

Our children were very skeptical of our intentions and felt we had bought the food processor in order to have an attractive cooking tool on the counter top to give the appearance of cooking (it is true Barbara made me buy a black one to match the granite).  They had little hope of us actually using it, much like the crock pot, etc.

My sister was staying over that weekend and we showed her the recipes we had chosen to start with.  We started to make a list of ingredients to purchase versus what we had at home. 

My sister, who is a good cook, opined that many of the ingredients we had at home had probably expired or lost their freshness. 

I was frankly amazed she would say that.

20 year old condiments are outdated?  Chicken broth from 1987 is too old?  Does no one make quality products any longer?  At least ketchup and frozen chicken can last a year, right?

She seemed to disagree and insisted on going to the store with me to get “fresh” ingredients.

We returned from the store and Barbara and I resolved to make our first dish, Lime Tequila Chicken.

In the meantime, I had called our friends from Paris and told them of our plans.  They said they would be happy to come to dinner to try out the Lime Chicken.  I readily agreed, confident in my cooking prowess.

When I proudly told Barbara about having company to share our first “cooked meal”, I got “The Look”.

“You can’t do that,” she declared.

“Why not?” I naively asked.

“You can’t try out an unproven recipe on people,” she stated.

“But they know its my first time at this and are willing to try. That’s what they are expecting,” I countered.

“Forget it, make something you know how to make. Make Brisket”

“Brisket?  They expect Tequila lime chicken!”

“You’re making Brisket.  Don’t argue about it”

“Should we tell them it’s not going to be Chicken?” I asked.

“No, let’s let it be a surprise.” Barbara said.

I cooked the Brisket that day and put it in the refrigerator for use 3 days later.  Its always better to let the meat stay in the gravy (I make it like a Pot roast with Potatoes) at least one to two days or longer (sometimes a week, but don’t tell my children).  Barbara would make Matzoh Ball soup to go along with it.

The day of the dinner arrived.  I put the Brisket in the oven to finish cooking it and Barbara made her soup.

Our friends arrived.

The first thing they said was “Where’s the mess from cooking?  Everything looks so neat and clean.”

“Yes,” I responded, “we clean as we cook so there is no mess”.

A bald faced lie, but since I had done the actual cooking 3 days before, I could say it and the condition of the kitchen before them seemed to agree.

They were impressed.

We sat down to eat.

Barbara served the soup.  Her Matzoh Ball soup is very good even if it is from the Manichevitz box.

Now to the main course. 

I collected the plates and brought them into the kitchen and put the Brisket on the plates away from prying eyes.

I brought them in and put them in front of everyone.

Before they could say anything, I said “funny thing, I followed the recipe but I think it tastes like Brisket.”

We all laughed.

I explained why they were getting Brisket instead of the chicken.

The Brisket was a hit.  I do make a good Brisket.

Two days later, we made the Tequila Lime Chicken.

It was “ok”.  It didn’t have enough taste and we thought about how to make it better the next time and came up with some good ideas.

We texted our friends telling them they were better off with the Brisket.

We next tried a recipe for Potato Soup. It was delicious and satisfying.  So much so, we had it for two days as a main course (we haven’t tried to cut down on the measurements yet and everything is for 6-8 servings).

Now we started to brag about our accomplishments and our friends were quite amazed at us.  Our reputation was we never cooked.  In fact the new kitchen had never been used, much less the new stove.

One of our friends stated “I thought there was a better chance of you converting to Islam than you ever cooking”.  A sentiment shared by all who know us.
Nevertheless, we have continued to cook and at least right now enjoy it.

We recently made Baked Artichoke Chicken with a side dish of Kasha Varnishkas.  It was very good.

I felt the need to text our friends, who are at least partially responsible for our cooking, about this last meal.  I told them how well it had come out, added at the end, “No food poisoning as yet, but it has only been an hour”.

She answered back “Give it time.”