The $@#&!^* Joy of Cooking

Okay.  I get it.  Cooking truly is an art form.  It requires patience, creativity, and talent.  Lacking two of those three means I am struggling in the kitchen, but pressing on nonetheless.  My creativity in other areas does not transfer well.  I know that is a confidence thing, and it will come eventually.   Thank goodness my husband enjoys to cook, otherwise we would starve during the time it takes me to recover from a single meal prep.

What I lack in patience and talent, I more than make up for with my curiosity and love of learning.  I want to soak up as many experiences as possible while I am living here, and that includes learning about new ingredients, new foods, and new ways to prepare them- -myself.  So I research, pin on a special “current obsession” Pinterest board, and write recipes in a brand new spiral bound notebook.  I cannot tell you how much I enjoy this part!

thumbnailRecently, armed with a grocery list (for quite possibly the first time in my life), I headed to our local Ley grocery store.  After a long internal debate about whether or not I should buy tomatillos in their husks or out, I opted for out.  Although I had no earthly idea what a ripe tomatillo was supposed to look like.  I received a short lesson on how to select the perfect lemon from a very kind expert.  I am slowly learning to tell the difference between the five gazillion varieties of peppers available.  And no laughing please, but I had absolutely no idea that tomato bouillon was a thing!  In fact, I was a little worried that I would not be able to find it.  I had to ask where to find the vinegar.  (A side benefit of this cooking thing is an improvement in my Spanish speaking skills.)

By the time I was finished, almost everything in my cart had come from the produce department.  I loved how it looked!  Upon arriving home, I took a picture of everything because it looked so pretty.  That was the extent of my kitchen time the rest of the day.

I woke up early the next day to soak my beans and make the marinade for carne asadathumbnail-2 before I went to Spanish class.  I got right back at it once I returned home, cooking the beans and whipping up a little salsa verde.  I really loved this recipe because it did not require a lot of slicing and dicing.  I just threw everything into our little smoothie maker and in seconds I had delicious salsa.  Without a doubt, the tomatillo is quite possibly the greatest thing on this planet (ripe or not).

Nearly everything on my menu called for garlic.  We never used a lot of it back in Indiana.  Who am I kidding?  My husband did because I found TWO garlic presses in our kitchen utensil drawer.  Who knew that garlic is a lot like an onion?  Never mind.  Probably all of you.  Well, I was amazed by all the layers of skin I had to peel off to get to the good stuff.  And it now makes perfect sense why one of our small, independent grocers sells fresh garlic already peeled.

I have a new appreciation for the Rachel Rays, Paula Deans, and everyone else who can cook and joke around, chat, or watch Ellen at the same time.  I was over focused, consumed by what was in front of me.  I would check my recipe and then forget what I had just read minutes later.  I felt frantic and incredibly anxious.  At one point I actually had to lie down and practice my breathing.  Take out would have been so much easier…

Truth be told it was a good thing I rested.  While my husband was grilling the flank steak, I was racing around the kitchen like a mad woman finishing up the rice and the beans.  Part of the problem is that our gas stovetop seems to have two settings- – high and higher.  Before I had time to chop my carrots, the rice was boiling.  I had no chance of keeping liquid in the bean pot; the juice evaporated instantly.  And I never even had time to slice onions or lemons for the carne asada because I was stirring two pots at the same time to prevent burning.

thumbnail-1I let Steve taste everything first.  Once it was evident that he was not going to have a food reaction, I tried dinner myself.  The rice was incredible- -it is now my specialty (read “the easiest”), and I make it at least once a week.  The beans tasted somewhat bland, which I was not expecting at all.  It was explained later that I had failed to add the “tube of lard” (available at Ley) to the bean pot.  Um, no.  Until I figure it out, I will just mix them in with the rice.  And I will be doing that for a while considering that even though I halved the recipe, I have beans for days.  Thankfully, it is pretty hard to screw up carne asada, even without onions and lemon!

Up next machaca, tacos al pastor, charro beans, and pozole.  I figured pre-calculus out the week before the final exam.  I can surely master the kitchen.  (But I am keeping a few restaurants on my speed dial until then.)

Author: acstrine

Amy is a former elementary school teacher, currently living "Over the Border" with her husband. She loves reading, traveling, and learning through new experiences. While she would be incredibly flattered if you choose to share her articles, she asks that her name is kindly included as the author.  

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