I’ve never been what one might call ‘gifted’ in the kitchen. I think a more accurate statement might be ‘fucking disaster.’ A couple of years ago, I decided to learn how to cook. I bought the most basic cookbook I could find:
Apparently not basic enough. I bought all my groceries for the week’s meals, planned diligently, and invited a friend over to help me make chicken stir fry. I handed her the veggies to chop, and she commented on how it seemed like a lot of garlic. ‘The recipe calls for two cloves,’ I told her, full of confidence, as I handed her two things of garlic. Had she not been there to laugh with/at me and inform me of the difference between a bulb and a clove, I would have put 16 cloves of garlic in my damn stir fry. Seriously though, how the fuck am I supposed to know what a clove is? I clearly missed that day of how to be an adult class.
I read this book a lot as a child. Perhaps too much.
Another time, I tried baking a birthday cake for a staff member. My idea of baking involves a box full of powder and a jar of frosting, and whatever else the box says to add – if I have it. I didn’t have any eggs, but I did have extra oil. My reasoning? Same consistency, so a perfectly acceptable substitute. Shockingly, that did not work out well for me.
So here we are, some time has passed, and a few things have changed. Going vegetarian has forced me to learn some new tricks and actually figure out meals. I’ve had some less-than-perfect results (when it says to use a food processor, no, a shitty blender will not get the job done), but at least this way I’m less likely to give myself food poisoning. I’ve even been able to
master adequately recreate a few dishes enough times that I feel comfortable with them. So, being the somewhat crazyperson that I am, I’ve decided to make things even more challenging: I’m going at-home vegan (and vegetarian while at other people’s houses, weddings, etc).
I invited a friend over (because if I’m going down, I’m taking someone else with me), and decided to make vegan pasta from scratch with a fancy-pants wild mushroom sauce. Sure Steph, that sounds completely reasonable.
I had to go to three different grocery stores because apparently there is a white/brown onion shortage in Ontario, I struggled with silken tofu (as a vegetarian I buy tofu all the time … this was not supposed to be the hard part), I had to google way too many ingredients (yes, kosher salt is different; no, all-purpose flour is not the same as bread flour; no, Spanish onions are not white or brown), but I made it to the kitchen in one piece.
I made the dough with only one little incident, and stuck it in the fridge with a hope and a prayer. My friend joined me, and she is even worse in the kitchen (yep, possible!). It was like the blind leading the blind and deaf. Things we said:
- I have oregano stuck to my arm.
- Stick your face in the freezer. Get in there.
- Me: Do I simmer with the lid on or off? Friend: Is there someone else in the kitchen?
- Go away liquid!
- What the hell is a small, medium, or large dice?
Minor speedbumps aside, I/we actually managed to pull it off. I made vegan pasta from scratch and no one died! See for yourself:
Disregard the lumps and I think it looks pretty damn good. The sauce turned out really well (despite including things I don’t even know how to pronounce, like chiffonade). It tasted awesome (fuck dry pasta), and hopefully it will get easier over time. And if it doesn’t, thank goodness I live in a city with 24-hour restaurant delivery.
7 responses to “Life skills 101: cooking”
[…] Bogart’s encouragement) to deviate or even wing it without worrying about a repeat of the All-Garlic Stir Fry or the Cake That Would Not Be. I adopted the #stephnotchef hashtag as a play on Steph Not Stephanie, but also as a jokey defence […]
[…] I’ve also been doing a lot more cooking. I’ve detailed my long journey from a girl who didn’t know what a clove of garlic was to someone reasonably skilled—sometimes even without a recipe—in the kitchen (in case you […]
[…] which he’s been amenable to thus far. Plus, if I cook with him around I’m bound to learn things (like when my horrible chopping skills result in a gentle, ‘Can I show you something?’ […]
[…] either known me for a while or had the pleasure of sampling my pre-veg culinary skills, you know what I’m talking about. I decided to learn how to make real food about a year into this journey, and holy fucking shit, I […]
[…] dimension where I’m a kitchen goddess; it was just pan-fried tofu. I’ve been making strides in the kitchen, and apparently my tolerance for shenanigans patience is a virtue with frying things, because […]
[…] been plodding along in my adventures in cooking and veganism, to mixed results. The food has turned out shockingly well, but the rest of it has been a bit of a […]
My word, your prowess in the kitchen has really evolved. I have never attempted from scratch pasta as it seems a bit daunting. Kudos on being able to feed yourself and others with no maiming or food poisoning. Hurrah!