Thursday, March 25, 2010

Curious Cooking Creations

When I was a small child, I was a very picky eater. I didn't like spicy food and anything with strong flavors. My favorite food as child was either baked chicken or fried chicken--still is to this day. If I didn't like what we were having for dinner, my mother would always make something else for me. And I loved her for it! She wanted to make sure that I ate something. She worried that I'd rather sleep than eat. Truth is, I'd still rather sleep than eat!

Of course, there were times when my mother asked my older sisters to make me something if I didn't like dinner, like a sandwich if I didn't want to eat soup. That used to make my sisters mad, because it always meant more work for them and I was spoiled. It's true. But I didn't care about that. So long as I got what I wanted, I was happy to be picky. But that all came to an end when I was 10 years old.

My mother had made lamb curry. I didn't want lamb curry for dinner. I complained that I wanted a sandwich instead. My mother gave me a look. Uh-oh. It wasn't the look that signaled I was about to get a spanking. That look I was very familiar with. But this look was unsettling all the same. Maybe she was tired or maybe she realized that I was really a spoiled brat, but she told me that if I didn't like what we were having for dinner, then I could fix something else myself. I was shocked! Say what?

I didn't know how to reply. My mother asked me what I wanted to eat. I was relieved, thinking that she would make me my sandwich. Boy was I wrong! When I told her that I wanted a fried egg sandwich, she told me to get the ingredients and she would show me how to make a fried egg sandwich! I was like, What? But she was serious. So that night, I learned how to cook a fried egg--even flipped it over myself! I was proud of my accomplishment, which kind of took the edge off the shock that my mother was no longer indulging my whims. But I enjoyed eating that sandwich while everyone else had lamb curry. I didn't know it then, but my chores had just expanded. My mother had decided that it was high time I started to appreciate the efforts that went into making a meal and learn some life skills.

The next day, my mother had me help out in the kitchen making dinner. We were having fish stew. Blah. I wanted pancakes. So after making fish stew together-and I learned how to clean and gut fish that day--my mother had me get the ingredients for making pancakes and told me what to do. And by the time I was done making my stack of pancakes under my mother's watchful eye, the stew was ready. And for the rest of my time at home, I would help make dinner. My brothers would join in to from time to time, but I was the one who mostly enjoyed working in the kitchen.

As we got older, we took turns making a meal during the week. When I was 12, I was old enough to make dinner for the entire family. I made my fave--fried chicken! And it was good! When I was 13, I started experimenting with ingredients. I was fascinated by recipes, curious as to why we use some ingredients and not others. I looked forward to my turn to do the cooking. My family were the unwitting test subjects in my cooking creations. Their reactions told me all I needed to know.

I'm just glad no one got sick, although, my mother told me to stop experimenting on the whole dinner and just set aside the experimental portion for myself! Some of my experiments were successful--like soy sauce and honey glazed fried chicken, delicious! Those became a family fave. Others were failures--like cocoa flavored pancakes--awful! Just gawd awful! I learned that unsweetened cocoa powder is not the same as chocolate powder! It was bitter, salty and not sweet at all! The only thing worse than my cocoa pancakes were the soy sauce pancakes! Even the dogs refused to eat them!

Nowadays, I actually like all sorts of food, especially the spicy ones! I love trying out foreign dishes and local treats. Over the years, I still love to experiment with food. A lot of it comes from trying to save time or substituting ingredients because I don't have what's needed in the recipe. Once, I ran out of sugar and honey when I wanted oatmeal. That's when I discovered the delectable taste of hot oatmeal with chocolate candy bars; which led to raisins in hot oatmeal.

Pineapple marinated and glazed pork is just as tasty when it's pan grilled on the stove top as it is when it's grilled outside! Same thing with pineapple chicken, meaning I can make it whether it's hot outside or freezing--not that I've ever let the cold stop me from grilling outside. Once when I was visiting some friends for Christmas in Chicago, we had a bbq! That was so fun and the food was amazing in all that winter snow! Nothing like grilled chicken, ribs, and turkey tails for Christmas dinner! Egg salad--just eggs, mayo, salt & pepper--in a crepe is delicious! Grilled cheese with tuna, yum! Ramen noodles with ground beef served over Doritos chips, so scrumptious! Sweet cornbread with white beef gravy is fantastic. Coconut milk syrup over pancakes or hot rolls is divine! No milk or creamer for coffee? No problem. Vanilla ice cream in hot coffee makes for a sweet, delightful, flavorful creation.

Of course, there have also been some spectacular failures. This morning, I was hungry for pancakes, but I was out of flour and eggs. I looked in the cupboards and found a box of cornstarch. Well, I have used cornstarch to make pancakes when I didn't have any flour. Naturally, I had eggs then. But then again, I've made pancakes without eggs before, so I figured, eh, why not and proceeded to make cornstarch pancakes without eggs. I was sure it would be all right. But I was wrong! It was terrible! Just horrible! Gawd! I may as well have taken a spoon and eaten the cornstarch right out of the box! I had to brush my teeth to get that awful soapy, bitter powdery taste out of my mouth! That's one more thing that I would never, ever make again.

Thankfully, I had some ramen noodles, which I cooked and drained, seasoned and served with melted cheese--the breakfast of champions! Mmmmm. If there's one thing I've learned from years of kitchen experiments, it's that you learn from your mistakes and move on to create better things, lest you're doomed to repeat your failures and end up with a horrible taste in your mouth and hunger that won't go away. It's kind of like life. You live. You learn. And if you're lucky, you have more fun and good food along the way.

Related Link:
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Easy Eats

20 comments:

  1. Bravo for your sense of experimentation in the kitchen! Creative and a learning experience!


    For times when I don't feel like assembling something to cook, I have a few one-ingredient meals like soup, tuna, yogurt, etc. on hand.

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  2. Oh Eros! You made me laugh out loud with some of your failures!!! But good on you for experimenting and learning and broadening your tastebuds' horizons!

    And just so you know, people bbq up here year round - even when it's -40!!!! So don't ever let the weather stop you. If we can do it... so can you!

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  3. can you teach super nana how to cook, sugar? xoxoxo

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  4. XL, Thanks! I do have fun experimenting in the kitchen. I find it relaxing and fun at times. And like you, sometimes, it's nice to have a can of tuna or even just a potato to make a quick meal.

    Ponita, Those horrible cooking concoctions were lessons learned the hard way! And I made sure never to repeat them! Although, some of them have become family legends.

    Grilling is fun! And it's a very inexpensive way to cook, too, with a bag of charcoal much cheaper than using my stove! I'm glad to hear other people grill in winter, too :) BBQ and grilling is great any time of the year!

    Savannah, Oh, I'm sure Supernana can learn how to cook. I think cooking is something you learn and get better at just by practice! Sure, you'll make mistakes, but you learn from them and try something else.

    And it helps to start off small and find very simple recipes for the food you like to eat. And I think it's more fun when it's something you like and you start doing it to share with friends and good company.

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  5. What a cunning mother you have to make you contribute to the chores! And her scheming has definitely paid off (well, in most of your culinary creations)!

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  6. What is your stance on cake?

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  7. IDV, Oh, she was crafty that mother of mine. Although, she probably had some worries during my experiments on the family phase--when I discovered chili powder and used it on everything from eggs and stews to pancakes and muffins (two massive failures, as evidenced by the threats of bodily harm from siblings who were red in the face and teary eyed from too much heat in the food!).

    MJ, I like to eat cake--that's it! I can bake a cake and apply frosting, except I'd rather make peach cobbler, my fave baked dessert item! Actually, I like to use the cake recipe to make cupcakes instead--much easier to carry around to eat later!

    Scarlet, I like muffins! I've made some and taken them to work to eat or share with coworkers! Banana flavored and chocolate chip ones are really popular with the coworkers! I like dunking them in tea or coffee!

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  8. Dear Eros,
    I have always enjoyed experimenting with food, I had some Friends coming over for dinner one evening at fairly short notice, requesting I make a lasagne and they would supply the alcohol. Fair deal i thought.

    To my horror, and knowing my guests to be severe carnivores, I
    discoverd that I was all out of minced steak.

    At that time the nearest shops were a 1 1/2 hour round trip as I was living in the bush!

    Improvisation time!

    I had a huge bag of mushrooms (chopped into tiny cubes and when cooked look just like mince.) Same with Zucchini, and Broccoli. Into the pot they all went, tomatoes, onions a healthy dolop of crushed garlic and jars of tomato paste and pasta sauce, and presto!
    When combined with the betchmel sauce and layered pasta sheets finshed off with, grated tasty, parmsan cheese and breadcrumbs. Voila. Meat free lasagne!

    Entree was home made potato pancakes,(grated Onion, Potato, Flour Eggs and a dash of Nutmeg.
    Lightly fried till golden brown)
    Served with Garden salad and homebaked Garlic Bread.

    Desert, Fresh fruit salad and Ice cream.

    They didn't know the meal was totally veg!

    Until I was asked for the recipe!
    Total looks of astonishment on the faces surrounding me.
    From then on I had to use the same recipe every time they came to dinner!

    Better than the old recipe indeed!
    Some times you just have to make do with what you have on hand and get creative!

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  9. Princess, How about that? That's an awesome lasagna recipe and that's how most great dishes are born--out of necessity!

    I'm going to try your recipes out, esp. the potato pancakes. I don't like lasagna, because it's usually bland for me (and I'm not really a pasta fan--it takes up space that belongs to meat!) But I did enjoy a veggie lasagna once and I do love mushrooms! So I'm definitely going to try out the mushroom lasagna, too!

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  10. My dad is 65 years old and was the only boy with 3 sisters both younger and older.

    His meals were cooked for him, his clothes washed and laid out for him (every night) and his room cleaned... By his sisters. Because as a boy he was the prince and domestic work was beneath him.

    At least that's what his parents thought. My mother changed all that and we never got special treatments. If we didn't like dinner it was too bad. It was take it or leave it which means I can eat most things. There are a few dishes they served that would put tears in my eyes. They were that vile, yes!

    I too got involved in the cooking after one incident of mentioning dinner was vile. Bless.

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  11. CP, Your dad had it good growing up! My older sisters only fed me because my mother told them, too! Ha! Your dad must've really been smitten with your mom to do his own chores!

    I was the spoiled one--mostly because of my picky eating habits when I was younger, and the fact that I'd rather sleep than eat used to worry my mother. All my other siblings would rather eat!

    When I was 12, I had to learn to do the laundry, because my mother was tired of telling me to put my dirty clothes in the hamper instead of leaving it all over my room floor. One day, I ran out of clean clothes. When I complained to my mom, she asked me if I had placed them in the hamper before she did the wash. When I said, no, she told me, well now go get all your dirty clothes and I'll show you how to do the laundry--I was like, Aw man! Now I have more chores!

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  12. Not really. She came with the house..

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  13. CP, Ha! That must've been some fantastic house!

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  14. There's a little bit of your mom with you every time you cook! Nice memories to have. I love how she didn't stop your experiments, but just ensured that there was at least enough that would be edible.

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  15. Snooze, I think my Mom was trying to prepare me to an independent adult--and to be less spoiled! And you're right. I'm really glad she let me experiment with the food and helped expand my tastes--solved my picky eating problem and made me appreciate the efforts that went into making a meal!

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  16. I wasn't too much of a picky eater, but I do remember my mom making me something else if she knew I didn't like something. Yay moms!

    My one nephew is very picky, and usually likes chicken nuggets, hotdogs, macaroni & cheese and soup. :D

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  17. Tara, Moms are great! I have met a few people who were picky eaters as children--turns out, they're the most adventurous when it comes to trying out new food now! Two of them are food critics! Go figure! I'm sure your nephew will grow out of his picky eating phase some time. I know I did eventually.

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  18. I like cooking and experimenting and like yourself have had some spectacular discoeries and terrible failures .
    Like Pete we ate what we were given and were not allowed to leave the table until we did , luckily Ma Beasty was a good cook . One of the things I find most depressing in life is a fussy eater , I cant understand it at all

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  19. Beast, I kind of feel pity for fussy eating adults. Some people don't know what they're missing by not being adventurous and trying out new things.

    Today, I nuked a potato and then I decided to halve it, season it with garlic salt then fried both sides to crispy brown. I didn't have any cheese or butter to eat with it, but it went great with leftover rice!

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