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About culinary tactics

To save money, Kelly and I have been avoiding restaurants like the plague and cooking our own meals. Sadly, our skill with a rangetop is infantile at best – I can make eggs, stir-fries, and burritos, and Kelly knows a good recipe for potatoes. We’re improving rapidly, though. Our limited means are forcing us to learn to cook at mach speed, forcing it down our throats kung-fu style. We don’t have a cookbook or a guide more reliable than our own intuitions, but you know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention: it, um, is.

When we arrive back in the States, we’re going to publish a book called How to Make Ten Meals with Four Ingredients. The four ingredients in question are potatoes, carrots, onions, and noodles of various shape and color, and we’ve been using them literally every night to fashion a masterwork of gustatory delight. We toss in assorted mixed vegetables when the price is right, and of course supplement the line-up with salt and olive oil, but The Four are always present and usually all alone. They’re the cheapest semi-healthy things available here.

This is the part of the story where I’m supposed to rattle off the various dishes we’ve cooked ala Bubba from Forrest Gump, but that would be wearisome, and I think you get the idea. To say that we’ve cooked these four things ten different ways would not be an exaggeration; it would be factual.

I’m actually starting to enjoy preparing semi-elaborate dishes, even though the cooking, eating, and cleaning consume a costly chunk of time I could be devoting to partying or (ha!) learning German. Experimentation is key, such as last night, when I strayed from the formula and attempted some breaded pork cutlets. I’d never breaded anything before, but I had a couple stale rolls in the pantry and pork was on sale at the grocery store, so I figured: why not give it a shot? Long story short, I made a horrible, crumby mess of the kitchen counter and the pork was only sufficiently breaded on one side, but it was damn tasty.

The most difficult part of the task is dealing with my “family”. When they’re not using the kitchen as an arena for “German Screaming Match, Round VIII,” they’re usually on hand to confound things. I’ve gotten yelled at for eating food that doesn’t belong to me on multiple occasions, the worst of which was the initial olive oil fiasco. It’s really not my fault though – their logic of ownership is wholly alien to me. My apartment in Seattle may as well be a commune for the amount of effort Nathan and I expend asserting our ownership of various foodstuffs, or any of our belongings, for that matter. Regina, though, guards every scrap of food like a fierce puma, even when it’s something you would think was public domain. The other night at dinner, John Paul went to get the pepper shaker down from the cabinet to season the Four Ingredient soup we’d made, and Regina blocked him, shielding the shelves with her body as if protecting solid gold bars. He returned to the table and just started laughing. “No, you can’t have any pepper! It costs €100 a tsp.” he mocked when Regina had left the kitchen. I’d been using the same shaker myself since day one, albeit surreptitiously. “If you can’t share your pepper, then you’d better start collecting all your sweat and saving it in bottles to sell, because everything you own is too precious to give away.” It was nice to see my own irritations with Regina and Stephan, mostly unobserved except by myself up to then, validated by other people. For a while there, I was actually entertaining the notion that I was being unreasonable.

One more unrelated thing, following this important birthday announcement: I turn 22 on the 26th (Monday in Vienna, who knows what day it will be in your part of the world), and I need me some presents of the non-triple-distilled variety. Specifically, I need this CD worse than I could possibly put into words, and the €19 they want for it in Vienna is too much for my humble means. If someone wanted to buy it for me and send it over, I would thank them so hard their grandchildren would feel it (*cough* Mom and Dad *cough*). People not lavishing gifts upon me should mail me a letter congratulating me on 22 years free of fatal injuries – no mean task – or give me a ring. Note that I somehow got the phone number completely wrong last time I attempted it; third time’s a charm. The address and number, one more time, are:

Hollandstraße 9/5
1020 Wien, Austria
(43) (6991) 032 2388 between 3am and 3pm PDT, bitte

I know I promised focus, but I have to note this even though it’s miles from germane. Someone I know, who will remain nameless, actually wrote this on their blog: “I woke up naked with dorito powder on me, bloodstains on my sheets from some gashes in my thigh, and about 10 fresh bruises I sustained in the last 12 hours. I’m incredible.” Doesn’t that sound awful taken out of context? Or in general?

Posted in Musings.


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