Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Cooking Meme

I stole this off Cindy's blog because it was kind of the inspiration for my own new blog here. Everyone I know is tired of me talking about food all the time, so I decided that in order to remember-through-repetition what I have been cooking and eating, I'd start this. This food meme thing asked a lot of questions that I have some difficulty answering, which is what makes it a good questionnaire.

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?

My first real memory of cooking anything at all is of the time I tried to make peanut butter cookies by myself out of this "Kids in the Kitchen" cookbook. I ate more than half of the dough before baking them and got so totally sick that to this day I can't eat (or even be close enough to smell) peanut butter cookies, peanut butter pie, peanut butter any-kind-of-baked-good. Aside from that, I also remember being about the same age (around 9 or 10) and obsessed with recreating the Orange Julius. I finally figured out that the secret ingredient is vanilla extract.

Who had the most influence on your cooking?

I didn't really have any cooking tutelage or mentoring while I was growing up, and in general preferred to stay out of the kitchen completely. When I graduated from college I knew how to scramble an egg and how to make toast, and literally that was it. I learned how to cook from cookbooks -- specifically Help, My Apartment Has a Kitchen! by Kevin and Nancy Mills and The New Basics by Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso. Later I branched out into cooking recipes from Gourmet and Food and Wine -- they assume a relatively novice cook and provide ample instructions.

But in terms of my own cooking philosophy -- adapt and substitute -- that all comes from my dad. He used to make something called Bachelor Special for my sister and me for dinner. Usually it involved browned hamburger, a can of cream of mushroom soup, some leftover rice, and a can of Veg-All, with plenty of salt and pepper. It sounds truly revolting, but every now and then my sister and I will confide a hankering for the dish to each other. The best part about Bachelor Special is that it tastes pretty good no matter what you throw into it, kind of like meatloaf. And so the lesson of making do with ingredients on hand was impressed upon little me.

Do you have an old photo as 'evidence' of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?

Sadly, no.

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?

Yes. Or, at least, I would want someone more experienced than me in the kitchen when dealing with:

  • oysters
  • sushi
  • a pineapple that needs to be peeled and cored
  • a whole fish that needs to be scaled and deboned
  • any spiky and/or spiny fruits or vegetables -- I always feel like they are totally impenetrable

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest let down?

I love my cheapo bamboo spoon/spatula things from the Chinese market. I am also a big fan of the rice cooker, the citrus squeezer contraption (so much easier than the reamer for big juicing projects), and the Microplane grater. I am forever in debt to my boyfriend for buying me a Cuisinart food processor in a moment of tears and frustration involving 10 pounds of carrots and a hand-cranked food mill. I love our wok, too, and my medium-gauge strainer. I use my ice cream maker all the time -- something I bought with confidence despite my hatred of kitchen gadget clutter. The best thing I own, though, is my Shun Japanese chef's knife. That one little thing has changed the way I think about prep work forever.

Things that I thought I would use more include my cast-iron pan (I don't fry enough stuff), my Springform pan (though it does come in handy sometimes), and any of our THREE little stovetop espresso makers. We need to get rid of those.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else!

Well, I love Krinos taramosalata from the jar on pita, crackers, whatever. Actually I love cod roe on anything. There is a great Japanese restaurant in San Francisco called On The Bridge that makes cod roe cream sauce for spaghetti. It is so amazingly salty, rich, and delicious.

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don't want to live without?

I take this to mean staples that I always have to have in the house, as opposed to favorite foods of all time.

  • aforementioned taramosalata
  • tortilla chips
  • coffee

Your favorite ice-cream

There are too many! Mocha Lace from Wentworth's in Hamden, CT; Indian Pudding and Grape-Nuts from Ashley's in New Haven; red plum sorbet from Mio Gelato in Portland, OR; Lemon Cream from the Washtenaw Dairy in Ann Arbor, MI; Coolsville Sundaes from Burgerville....

You will probably never eat...

Head cheese. Or "Thousand-Year-Old Egg".

Your own signature dish

The dish I seem to make most often in our house is Tofu Taco Salad, but that's not my signature dish -- it is the brainchild of Suzanne and Julie, who entered it into the Pillsbury Bake-Off a couple of years ago. But in terms of something that I love to make and everyone who eats it later craves, it's the brussels sprout slaw with bacon and apples that comes out at Thanksgiving. Just thinking about it makes me want some Right Now.

A common ingredient you just can't bring yourself to stomach

Bananas. Bitter greens, including broccoli rabe.

Which one culture's food would you most like to sample on its home turf?

French. I have had so much "French-inspired California cuisine" and "French -- with a twist!" food that I really want to go to France and eat somewhere that is truly, classicly French, just so that I have a baseline for comparison.


At 12:16 AM, Blogger cindym said...

Okay, someday when you have lots o time, please post the recipes for brussel sprout slaw AND tofu taco bake! Please please! They both sound intriguing and delicious.

And haha about the headcheese. Siiiick.

At 12:17 AM, Blogger cindym said...

Oh man, I just realized I wrote tofu taco BAKE instead of salad. this is because i have lately been obsessed with a dish called chicken taco bake, which is an entirely different thing and demands a lengthy description of its own in another forum. perhaps in my own blog, at some date in the future. ;)

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Mrs. Delicious said...

Wait, I want to know about the chicken taco bake! It sounds like Andy's favorite dish in the universe, a bizarre concoction of many kinds of creamed soup and salsa called King Ranch Chicken.


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