cooking performance anxiety
Tuesday, March 5 2013
Gretchen was off at work today, having told me it was my job to prepare dinner tonight. I always have performance anxiety when it my job to cook, partly because Gretchen is such a good cook, but also because her standards are high. My standards are low, and when I cook for myself, there's never any anxiety at all. But I tend to make the same thing over and over: a beany glurp best eaten with either tortillas or taco shells. I could eat that every night and never get sick of it. But Gretchen couldn't. Consquently, sometimes when I'm cooking for her I'll make pasta instead. When I'm feeling really experimental, I'll make an Asian stir fry. Today, though, I had so much warning that I felt the need to step completely outside my comfort zone. So I decided to make a couple Ethiopian wats. I found a bag of injera in the freezer to thaw out, and there were plenty of things to work with in the cabinets and refrigerator.
I checked a few web sites to see what could be made with potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and chick peas and found a number of recipes (most of which were surprisingly devoid of salt). It looked like the key to Ethiopian food is sautéing in lots of oil, which is how I tend to cook anyway. Beyond that, I needed a little guidance on spices. In general, the spicing looked to be similar to Indian food: cloves, allspice, cayenne pepper, occasionally ginger, and garlic. Some of it also required shiro, a uniquely Ethiopian spice. I decided to make two wats using bits and pieces of different recipes. One was mushroom-spinach concoction spiced with shiro, ginger, cayenne pepper, and garlic. The other was potatoes, green beans, and chick peas in a sauce made of tomato paste spiced with cloves, allspice, garlic, cayenne pepper, and shiro. Not being a big fan of potatoes in a form other than french fries, I had never actually cooked with potatoes before, and (based on something I'd seen on the web), I thought I could pre-cook a potato in the microwave oven and then just add it to the sautée pan. But after three minutes in the microwave, it still wasn't soft enough. So I ended up using a spatula to smash it in the pan. By this point the whole thing was feeling like a disaster, and by the time I served it to Gretchen I was apologetic. She responded with her usual "Oh, Gus, you always say that, but whenever you cook, it's always great!" I wouldn't say the wats turned out especially great; the chick pea stuff had too much tomato paste it in, which made it too sweet.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next