A friend once said that to be a good chef you had to be a garbage chef, able to throw a good meal together with whatever is in the kitchen. She said this at 0300, as she was making Filet Mignon for about six of us, while we sipped Viuex Telegraphe ’79 in her kitchen. I doubt very much that Susan had ever had what most people would call “garbage” in her kitchen, she had one of the most developed palates and noses of anyone I ever knew.
I consider myself a good garbage chef, unlike other people who shop for meals, I shop for ingredients and put together meals on the fly. We’re slowly ridding the freezer of meat since Jack is going away, but I put together a few interesting meals for him, including a cheese steak pizza. mostly I cook with grins and veggies now, but there have been some interesting tufu creations.
I’m partial to one dish meals lately, Sunday I used a soy chorizo, cous cous, Mediterranean olives, red pepper, broccoli, cilantro, Belgian endive, mushroom, and green onions in a dish, basically whatever I had in the fridge. I’ll be doing something with Eggplant and tomatoes, probably garlic and ginger and whatever else is fresh later this week. So yes, garbage chef.
Last week we actually followed a recipe Lieve had found on the internet for a veggie lasagne, spinach, ricotta, caramelized vidalia onions, portabella mushrooms, walnuts, and Gorgonzola cheese. Much better than a veggie lasagne my sister in law once made, in which she just substituted broccoli for meat.
Being a vegetarian of convenience does cause some mistrust of my cooking. I made some wonderful stuffed sweet peppers for the crew at the shore, but one friend wouldn’t try them because I had eaten a meatball at lunch the previous day, and she didn’t trust my vegetarian integrity. There was no meat in them, just felafel, olives, ginger, cilantro, feta, and whatever else looked good at the moment. The carnivores loved them, which might have been another reason she was uneasy about trying them. My cooking often carries the textures and flavors of meat dishes, I did spend almost forty years cooking with meat, and there are profiles I aim for.
Making the most of what you have is a lifestyle. It applies to everything I do, a skill learned in the Boy Scouts, and honed in the Air Force. It has helped in every job I’ve ever had, and in a sense, every relationship. I have made the best out of twenty years of Multiple Sclerosis, unappreciative partners, and other “bad breaks” in life.
The most important part of doing the best you can is recognizing that sometimes your best is to do nothing.