I don’t like to cook in other peoples kitchens. They don’t have my knives and pans, they rarely have the spices I keep, their choices of ingredients are usually not the same as mine.
Imagine cooking in another country.
“Sure, we’ll cook for my parents”, Lieve said, “we can always go to the store to pick up what they don’t have”.
I’m sure that there are specialty grocers who stock the ingredients I use, but the Carre-foure doesn’t have jack cheese, so I’m making enchiladas with gouda. It may work out fine, it just won’t be the way I make it at home. I’m sure there are Mexican stores that have real tortillas, not Old El Paso brand flour tortillas with an expiration date deep into next year. I’m certain there are spice shops, so I won’t have to blend generic curry spice and “mixed herbs” spice, trying to get something like a mole rojo.
Even in America, not all grocers carry the same items, they play to their regulars. But I would think that there would be a choice of canned tomatoes, what with Italy only being a few hundred miles away. I would have expected a variety of olives, and more choices of beans than kidney and lentil.On the other hand, there were several types of leek, and the biggest endives I have seen in my life, for a third of the price I pay for beat up specimens in the states.
That part of the problem I can blame on shopping at the last moment, had I taken a few days I could have gone to the markets in town, although I do need to accept that some things will just be different. I ordered a martini the other day and the waiter looked at me oddly, and brought back some lemon aperitif in a water glass. As I was saying to Lieve while we were shopping, I may have a future as an “innovative chef” once we move here.
The other part is the basic cooking in a strange kitchen. Electric burners instead of gas was more difficult to get used to than an oven that reads in Celsius. Using different pans was actually rather interesting and made me thankful for the electric burners with their even heat. I really do miss my knives, but at least they have one sharp knife, although the blade was flat rather than curved, so chopping cilantro was an adventure.
I had intended to keep the spices mild, but I had no idea how limited the choices would be.
I look forward to putting a kitchen together here, meeting the local grocers, and maybe trying out some recipes on neighbors.
Okay, they must have been good, Lieve couldn’t get a picture before the dish was empty. My father in law thought it was too exotic, and my mother in law said she would like it to be spicier. The gouda worked well, with its melting point similar to jack, and everything had the right consistency.
I am reminded of Lieve’s stories about the Flemish society in America, the complaints that it wasn’t like Belgium. It’s not supposed to be, and I will adapt my recipes to what is available locally, no doubt I’ll be making curry with leek, Thai dishes with endive, and incorporating waffles into creme bruleé (note, Lieve’s eyes widened when she read that last one). The object of the exercise is to experience a change of culture, I just hope that I can bring some of my influences with me.
I may have to leave mole negro behind, but I’ll try it at least once with a younger audience. Chocolate and pablano chilies is either going to be embraced or totally rejected in a culture with such a strong bond with chocolates.