I have a confession to make. I am a twenty-six year old woman who is jealous of our current generation of eleven year olds.
When I was eleven years old, I had Rachel Ray’s Thirty Minute Meals to teach me how to cook. There were no kids my age on TV, no one there to show me that I too could do it. I have very clear memories on giving up on being a professional chef in order to pursue a more traditional educational path that never panned out for me. Every time I turn on Master Chef Junior, Chopped Junior, etc, I think about what eleven year old Theresa would have thought of these kids.
Eleven year old Theresa would have wanted to be in those kitchens. Eleven year old Theresa, who burnt her parents’ tongues off with steak that has too much cayenne on it, would have seen in those kids people to look up to-- People like her who made it happen. I am simultaneously very proud of these kids that put out food that honestly makes me look like a goddamn amateur and very, very jealous of the opportunities that came into existence for them.
These things did not exist for a whole generation of hopeful cooks like me who gave up too soon. I’m so proud of these kids, even when I have a slight pang of jealousy in my heart. While I will always wish that this culture of hope in the next generation had been birthed early enough for me to try and get on board when I was as dedicated to cooking as some of these kids, there is nothing more inspirational than watching a twelve year old make a three course meal for Gordon fucking Ramsay. If they can do that, I can at the very least cook dinner more than two days in a row.
AKA the Double P
This is my promise to you. I’m never going to front load you with a bullshit story about sitting down at a perfectly set table with a perfect family reception to a perfect dish. This is a recipe. Here’s your recipe.
So, I tried to make a flatbread from Dining In last weekend. Cooking it in a nonstick skillet rendered some pretty piss terrible results. I undercooked every single one, and I did not divide them appropriately for the size skillet I tried to cook. Maybe that part was disappointing, but Alison Roman made mention of the Tartine Bread cookbook, something of a legend for bread bakers. It sat on the back of my mind all weekend until I knew it was close to time to order a book for April.
I hit buy on Amazon. Chad Robertson’s iconic cookbook was on the table by Wednesday. As of now, I’ve already read the introduction, and I am preparing to start the process of making my own starter. It’s a daunting task for someone who still struggles to decipher the hidden language of a bread dough, but I am hoping that Chad Robertson will help guide me down a path of better understanding that Forkish began for me in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast.
I’ve been firmly on land for a little more than a week now, maybe too long to wait to write about eating aboard the Carnival Ecstasy. Still, it deserves discussion as a most unusual experience. The logistics alone that go into feeding and serving hundreds of people on a single boat for eight days blows my mind even now, not to mention the number of locations we had to choose from over the course of the trip.
Let’s begin with the center of all food and booze on the Ecstasy, the Lido deck: home of three different bars, a buffet, a pizza joint, a deli counter, Guy’s Burger Joint, and Blue Iguana Taco Bar. It’s a lot of food for a lot of people, though not every location is open for all mealtimes. It felt like a minefield for every lunch that I had to navigate through to make sure I got to the meal I intended, not the meal that distracted me. I was never really successful. We’ll talk about these individually another day.
The first cookbook among the treasure trove sent to me by my father-in-law that I dug into was Cooking Thai Food in American Kitchens by Malulee Pinsuvana. It was a spiral bound, out of place little thing among some of the other cookbooks he had available for me to look at, and as someone who loves most varieties of Asian food, I had to see what was in store. The history of the cookbook itself fascinated me.
It is a dual language cookbook with English Recipes on one side of the page and the Thai recipes on the other. Originally published in 1976, it only cost 100 baht. That’s 3.07 in American Dollars today. That’s insane! Anymore, you have to pay more than twenty bucks for a good cookbook, probably even the spiral bound kind.
I am obsessed with Malulee’s steamed bun recipe that uses PILLSBURY BUTTERMILK BISCUIT DOUGH for the buns rather than having the reader make their own dough. Since giving it a try in late January, I think I’ve resorted to these buns as a quick meal almost every week. Not only do I not have to bother with a dough, the meat part of the recipe leaves enough leftovers for me to throw it into a pot of fried rice the next day.
The one problem with this cookbook is that I sometimes have to resort to substitutions. For example, many of the bun, egg roll, and wonton recipes call for ground pork. Ground pork is only rarely available in the grocery stores I frequent. When I can’t find it, I go toward the ground beef that is much more widely available-- and this is okay! The flavor isn’t terribly different after you add the sauces and vegetables to the fillings.
Among its offerings is a chicken satay recipe that helps to sate my husband’s cravings for Thai food that we used to get at the Jefferson Street Farmer’s Market back in Burlington. We get nostalgic for that market from time to time, much less the food, and it helps to have a choice.
I’m glad to have found a cookbook like this one among the treasure trove my father-in-law keeps. There is such value in these old books, including the history you can glean from their pages. I look forward to continuing to search through books from this time period and much older.
As it happens, this cookbook is still available in print through amazon. I recommend it to you, especially if you’re like me and really enjoy Asian cuisine. She teaches many substitutes and techniques for the American kitchen just as the title implies. Not only that, you’ll learn to make your own curry pastes. Those recipes are very interesting to look at!
While you’re here: please know that we may not have a March cookbook of the month. I know this flies in the face of one of my goals for this year, but one of these retro cookbooks may just have to serve as the March cookbook of the month.
Thanks for your patience as I reset my food journey.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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