Chaos on the door


  Buttermilk and Sriracha?                   Really?

Buttermilk and Sriracha?
Really?

The funny thing about vacations is the way they bring out my inner neat freak.  I mean, the luxury of all this time around the house inevitably has me cleaning closets, bleaching the under-the-sink cabinet, and scrubbing out the fridge.

And all this cleaning and organizing can lead to some interesting self-reflection.

For example, earlier this morning I found myself contemplating the door to my fridge.

Wow.  You wanna talk Chaos Theory?  Here it is in all its glory.

I think that the door of my fridge is like the junk drawer of my inner life.

All the important stuff (milk, chicken, cold cuts, goat cheese, apples, eggs…..) is in the main part of the fridge.  Some of them (like the fruits and veggies) even get their own special drawers and shelves.  I know where to go when I need to grab the yogurt or the bread or the salad ingredients.

The same can be said for the rest of my kitchen. I know exactly where to go to locate the flour, the sugar, the paprika.  I know where the bags of rice are stored (arborio, jasmine, brown).  I can find the peanut butter, the Nutella, the tea and coffee and the chocolate chips.  There is a set place for the pasta (spaghetti, rotini, ditalini, farfalle,orzo,lasagna,ziti, mostaccioli). There is a shelf for the canned foods (crabmeat, clams, tomato paste and beans) and a shelf for the snacks (cookies, crackers, rice cakes, popcorn).

Don’t even get me started on the spices.  Grouped by type, arranged on tiered shelves.  A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Until I look at the door of my refrigerator, and all bets are off.

What does it say about me that the bottom shelf of the fridge door contains a bottle of white wine, a half full quart of buttermilk, a jar of martini olives and three kinds of mustard? Move up a shelf, and you’ll find a squeeze bottle of Sriracha, a jar of pickled ginger, some hoisin sauce, a tube of harissa sauce and sweetened lime juice.  There is small jar of olive tapenade, a plastic bottle of horseradish, real maple syrup, two jars of yeast and a quarter bottle of Worcestershire sauce.  There’s butter (salted and sweet) and jars of strawberry, raspberry and apple jam.  A rolled up, halfway dried out cream cheese packet and three kinds of pickles.

As I looked it all over, I decided that I should throw some of it away.  So I spent the next hour taking things out and putting them back.  Blue cheese stuffed olives? You never know when I might crave a dirty Vodka martini!  Hot mustard, sweet mustard, horseradish mustard?  Well, we do have sandwiches for lunch most days.  Harissa…I hardly ever use it, but it reminds me of Tunisia. I want it!

Eventually, everything was cleaned up, the shelves were wiped and cleared and it was all put back.

So.

Does this…….creative display of oddball food items mean that I am an exciting chef?  Or a food hoarder?  Does it mean that I hate to waste or that I love to be adventurous in my eating?

Am I a slob, or a bon vivant?

I don’t know!  But as I make myself a lovely snack of olive tapenade with cream cheese on rye bread, I’d invite you to check out your own fridge door.  If everything is up to date and enormously useful in your daily life, please don’t tell me.  But if you find an interesting combination of pickled onions and maraschino cherries, drop me a note, will you please?

 

Defeated by Quinoa


I am a pretty good cook.

I can make homemade ravioli with four cheese. I can make a fabulous mushroom sage-butter sauce for pasta.

My meatballs have made grown men weep.

When I bake bread, the smell alone can change your view of life.

And yet.

I have been defeated by quinoa.

Red_quinoa

A few short years ago, I had never heard of this miracle grain.  I was perfectly happy to go through life without it, until I tried it at a High School Reunion Weekend.  My friend Karen made a quinoa salad that was so delicious, the mere memory of it causes “yummy noises” to emerge from my watering mouth.

So I asked for the recipe. Of course I did.  I am the woman who recreated a dinner of seafood risotto over smoked mozzarella after eating it at a local restaurant.

(Mine was better.)

So I tried to make the quinoa recipe.  Karen’s was crisp, and fresh and flavorful.

Mine?

Mine was a bowl of slimy little wormy things with a few bites of cashew and some bok choy. The quinoa grains looked like baby sperm, with big heads and long tails.  YeeeeeUk.

My friend assured me that quinoa was easy to cook, and really delicious!  So I tried again.

YeeeeUk redoux.

I asked for some advice.  All the cool foodies were into quinoa. I had to figure this out!!!

My friend Maureen told me to make sure that I rinsed my quinoa  thoroughly before I cooked it.  So I did.

I ended up with a pot of slimy little wormy things sticking to the bowl and just waiting for some flavor.  I added salt. I added pepper. I added fresh basil.  And lemon. And nuts.  I took a bite.

I threw it out.   Bleh.  Blehblehblehblehbleh.  It was sticky and a little oozy and slimy and yuck.

What the hell?

So I decided to give it up. I was simply not cut out for quinoa. I returned to making brown rice with roasted veggies and homemade chicken stock.  Yum!

Then I opened my cabinets and found two bags of quinoa: one red, one white.  Oh, oh.  I had already paid for them!  I HAD to use them! So I did a google search. “how to cook quinoa without the slimy little sperm tails making it gross.”

Or something like that.

I found a recipe that said, “Do not rinse”. Instead, it told me to lightly brown the sperm  quinoa in olive oil before adding veggies and stock.  I tried it.

Huzzah!  It was delightful!  Dry and firm and packed with nutritious deliciousness!  Yay, me!  Paul and I enjoyed it alongside our roast chicken, feeling both healthy and hip as we swallowed it down.  I was feeling so. smug.

Until I tried the exact same recipe two weeks later.  Exactly the same.  Precisely the exact same ingredients, cooking technique, temperature, time.

Exactly.  The. Same.

And I ended up with a bowl full of slimy little spermy wormies. I took one bite, gagged a little, and gulped down a swig of wine.

What the hell.

This process has repeated itself four or five times now.  One delicious, healthy side dish followed by two dinners that were nearly ruined by the slime patrol.  Another fabulously nutty salad, followed by a couple of tossed in the trash slime-oh-rific followups.

So I have come to the conclusion that there is a vast international quinoa conspiracy, no doubt lead by left-wing activists who hate America. I have come to realize that all the little dry curled up quinoa soldiers send coded messages at night, telling each other about the latest plan to defeat the meatball maven.

When they get the signal, they all unfurl those super spermy little tails and start to secrete ancient Aztec slime sauce, thereby ruining any plan for a yummy dinner.  In this way, they surely plan to take over the world.

So I am hereby announcing that I am giving up the quest for the quintessential quinoa.  I am switching back to nice cheesy, fattening, compliant risotto.

I know when I’ve been beaten.