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Adventures in cooking, round 5

One of the things I’ve come to believe in my short life is that recipes are for pansies. The best chef I know, Socialist Bryan (the Socialist label is largely superfluous these days as he’s the only Bryan of importance around, but is preserved for backwards compatibility), regularly uses such measures as “handfuls” and “blobs” when cooking, and his culinary masterpieces rival anything you’d find in a Betty Crocker book. In Vienna, Kelly and I lived on potatoes, onions, carrots, and garlic combined in whatever way we invented that night. Recipes weren’t really an option.

Tonight I continued the proud tradition with a casserole of my own device. For the time being, at least, I’m more excited about casseroles than I have words to describe. You get all the convenience of a one-pot meal, but with the added production value of a pulling one thing out of the oven that you can slice into, rather than a soupy mess which is little more than the orthogonal sum of all its ingredients, a typical result of stir fries and goulashes. Even better, there’s almost no way to screw them up, even when you toss things you find in the pantry into the dish almost at random. Tonight’s casserole’s ingredients were chicken, some sort of twisty noodle that’s been moldering in the cupboard for a while, squash, spinach, carrot, onion, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, and marinara sauce. I didn’t plan on including any of those except the chicken, but the contents of the fridge never lie. Mixing them all together with my bare hands in the largest glass dish I own, I warned Kelly, “I have no idea if this is going to work. We might be wasting six pounds of food right now.” Despite my doubts, it turned out absolutely sublime, and I have enough leftovers to feed myself for the next week or so.

I have to go read the last two acts of Henry IV, part one for my quiz tomorrow morning, but I don’t want to. In short, I’m all Shakespeared out. It’s closer to modern English than Chaucer, certainly, but still throws enough curve balls that footnotes are a necessity, as I learned the hard way trying to slog through the play unaided with Nathan’s massive, leather-bound “Complete Works” volume last night. I broke down and bought the paperback version this afternoon, and spent most of the afternoon with Prince Henry and Sir John Falstaff at the office, where there are fewer distractions in theory. By the time I left, my head was so muddied that I nailed myself in the forehead with the door on the way out. Given that I have eight more plays to read this quarter after this one, that might be a bad omen.

On the plus side, I’ve decided that my prof for the class is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a badass. I had qualms over his competency at first, as he is roughly as old as Jesus – his hands shake as he hands out papers or writes on the board, he repeats the end of every sentence during lectures, and “no email, no electronics used in class” was the first line of the syllabus. But then the other day, during the two-hour lecture’s ten-minute break, I saw him outside smoking a pipe. If that’s not old-school, I don’t what is. For some reason, this redeemed him completely in my mind. Must be the subliminal messages of the evil tobacco corporations warping my fragile young mind.

Posted in Musings.

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