Around the World With a Vagabond

Compensation: A Lesson in Cooking March 5, 2011

Filed under: Compensate: A Lesson in Cooking,Stories For My Brother — christynichols @ 11:33 am
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This is a “How Not To” post in cooking. Usually, when I cook, it’s either because I am trying to please someone else or I am avoiding other tasks.


Some cookbooks or websites offer wanna-be bakers and cooks like me (kinda) possible ways to compensate if one key ingredient from a recipe is missing from the cupboard.  For instance, what to do if a recipe calls for eggs, and there are none in the fridge.


Unfortunately for my food, and those I who I intend to feed, I usually forget to research this when I am short an ingredient, and so I make it up as I go along.  I compensate.


A few years ago, I wanted to reward my brother for changing the oil in my car.  So I made him no-bake cookies, a tasty combination of peanut butter, chocolate, and oats – his favorite!


This should have been fail-safe, as the name of the cookie indicates – no baking is needed: Mix. Set. Serve. Easy.


Except for on this day, I happened to not have as much peanut butter as the recipe called for, so I just doubled up (tripled-up?) up on using regular butter. I compensated.


I remember being in the doorway, my brother walking from the driveway towards the front door, a little greasy and tired, and probably looking forward to a treat.  I was ready with my cookies, very proud to have accomplished another kitchen feat, and that we could come to such a friendly agreement.


Have you ever had a mouthful of butter with oats? Neither had my brother.  He projectile-spat the homemade thank-you cookies all over my mother’s front porch and lawn, while I stood there, the plate of cookies in my hand and dismay on my face.


I don’t know that we’ve ever had the same kind of agreement since.


I still try to cook to please, though.


My roommates have grown gigantasaurus zucchinisaurs in their garden.  So tonight, left all alone, I decided to chop and grate one of the beasts into a yummy, homemade, garden zucchini soup for all of us to enjoy.


Because the zucchini were so large, I tripled the recipe.  Took me a lifetime to grate just one of them.  Then, I added the garlic, and 6 or so cups of stock and waited for the boil.  While I waited, I realized that I had forgotten that with soups, if the recipe is doubled, the amount of stock water isn’t.   Too much water = horrible watery soups.


I looked at the boiling, spattering pot of green.  It was a bubbling swamp – a very watery, bubbling swamp.


I had added far too much water to my grated zucchini.




Instead of boiling for the suggested 7 minutes, I decided that the more it boiled, the thicker the soup would get, so I let the pot boil and plop all over the stove top for 25 minutes while I trawled through Facebook.


What happened after boiling for all that time?   It was still watery. And the flavor seemed to have vaporized.


If I had thick cream, I would have added it to the pot; however, all I had to compensate for the cream was yogurt, and . . . . . I don’t know.  I just didn’t want to do that to my yogurt.


So, scoop by scoop, I added the boiled zucchini to a food processer and spun it into oblivion. I tried to drain the water from the scoops of green as I did so.   I took one of those big spoons that have the holes in them so I could scoop, drain, spin, scoop drain, spin.


This also was taking a lifetime, so I tried to just drain the whole pot into the sink at once so I could get through the scooping and spinning part faster. Instead of using a colander, I used the lid of the pot as I tipped the batch into the sink to drain out the excess water.


It was kind of heavy, but it held . . . . . .it held . . . . . . .. it held . . . . . .and then it slipped.  About half of the remaining batch splashed and spattered down the sink, transforming the sink into steaming green.


I didn’t even care at this point.


A few more scoops and spins of the rest of the boiled garden veg, and  . .tada! I had a hot soupy pot of flavorless green.




To compensate for the flavor that I had boiled out to compensate for the excess stock water I had poured too much of, I then took from the spice rack something labeled “Mixed Herbs”.


I don’t know what herbs are mixed in there, but I added about  . .1/2 cup?  I don’t know. I just opened the cap, and dumped the flavor into my swamp-in-a-pot.


Then, I spooned myself a bowl, and, tada again!!! Zucchini Soup!!!


Tastes just like watery herbs. Dinner?


A before and after picture of my garden zucchini.



Exotic Vegetables are Not Funny February 28, 2011

Filed under: Exotic Vegetables Are Not Funny,February Doesn't Suck — christynichols @ 11:05 am
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This summer my roommates decided to grow a vegetable patch in the backyard. I think they are growing quite an assortment of veggies, but I never go back there unless I am fetching my iPod.


I don’t know what superman vitamins are in the soil, but the vegetables seem to be doing quite well.  The zucchini in particular, are considerably well-endowed.  They are shaming the corn. It’s almost embarrassing.  But size doesn’t matter . . . . . .  Right?


Every few days, one of my roommates wanders to the garden, the skipping dogs at his heels, and carries back armfuls of homegrown rhubarb, spinach, and zucchini, and this is what happens to our kitchen table:


The zucchini are huge.  So enormous, that we can’t possibly put even a whole zucchini in a single dish.  They look more like sculptures, and I keep forgetting that they are food for eating, and not table centerpieces or kitchen knick-knacks. You know, like those dumb little ceramic chickens in some people’s kitchens?


Anyway, I forget that I can eat the zucchini, because they are just too big.  They are even too big for the vegetable drawer in the fridge.  When I cook, I take out the veg from this drawer.  Empty veg drawer = no veg. So tonight, even though these gigantic zucchini are stacked right on my table, I still ate my cous cous dinner without any veg, and I could have chunked it up with giant zucchini parts.


There is a reason I don’t consider the zucchini to be food. The one use I have of these rather impressive zucchinis is to put them on display in somewhat obscene positions after my roommates have gone to bed.  This way, when they get up at stupid-o’clock in the morning, they can have a little chuckle over coffee.

Who doesn’t like to start their mornings by having a chuckle at vegetables that look like genitals?


Immature? Yes. Funny? Yes.


I know this is juvenile, I know! I should be embarrassed, but I’m not, and I’ve done the same thing in public when fruits and vegetables are left out unattended:

The first night that the boyfriend and I arranged the green giants on the table, tomatoes and onions suggestively placed, we snickered and took photos.  We couldn’t wait to get scolded by our teacher-housemates.


But the next morning –  nothing! Not one word was said.  When I woke up, I discovered the erotic zucchini art had been dismantled. I was confused why nothing had happened! No note. No comments. No nothing.  How disappointing.


So. . . the next night the boyfriend and I arranged the zucchini again. This time using a few pornographic lemons:


Again, nothing.


We were absolutely determined to arrange the vegetables as obscenely as we could. If only there were cantaloupes in the house.  We were bound to offend. We desperately wanted our dirty vegetable joke to be appreciated! Or at least we wanted to get in some kind of trouble!


Every night, every night for 10 days, we put the zucchini on shameful display, and not once were we rewarded with reprimands. Not once.


Then one night, before we could come up with more creative and more obvious  ways to offend our gardener roommates, the zucchini was baked. Sliced, cut up and baked.  We were so disappointed that our roommates never caught on to our immature zucchini penis jokes.


Oh well. Perhaps our jokes will be got when the pumpkins are picked.