Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Mother's Biggest Regret

I found out a few weeks ago that my mother's biggest regret in raising me is having let me leave home without having learned to cook. If you ask me, it's a pretty minor issue. I mean...I'm a productive member of society, I'm not addicted to drugs, I'm getting a good education, I'm seeing the world. Even if I don't have a recipe database in my head, at least I know what good, fresh food tastes like – thanks to my mom.

But, all the same, she's taken it upon herself to further my culinary education via “distance learning” – a term many universities are using for their online courses. Every few days my inbox fills up with messages titled,

“Our dinner tonight,”
“Our dinner tomorrow night,”
“Make this as your Sunday dinner,”
“A great gluten free recipe!” ...etc.


 And you know what? It's the best distance learning course I've ever had. The problem with cookbooks is that they're just too much. Always too much text, too many pictures, or just too many choices. For someone who doesn't already know what she's looking for, opening a cookbook is more intimidating than diving into a Russian text on the technicalities of trade and border crossing.
What I can do, however, is tackle one spontaneous recipe at a time.

Every day at 5:25 pm, as I'm tidying up my desk and packing my bag to walk home, I check my Gmail, where I have a folder entitled “Gluten Free” (Two years ago we discovered that I have Celiac Disease, an allergy to gluten, so now my diet is limited to unpackaged, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, and some dairy. No grains, except rice on occasion.) Even if gluten weren't an issue, this is how I'd choose to eat – a diet like this feels that good!

All the recipes my mom sends are gluten free, or else I can easily substitute/leave things out to make them so. Having unknowingly subscribed to my mom's recipe-a-day service, I'm happily finding that a personalized cookbook is developing before my very eyes, authored by the one person who knows all my favorite foods, allergies, and gastronomical dislikes. Browsing my gluten free folder, I find recipes for dishes like Spanish Tortilla (a pile of grilled vegetables with eggs poured over the top), Herbed Goat Cheese Spread (my absolute favorite), Mango Chicken, Grilled Salmon and Sage over Red Potatoes, Rice Pudding, and Homemade Meat Balls. What more could a novice chef ask for? I quickly scroll through, open up a new recipe, jot down any rare ingredients, and stop by the gastronom on my way home to pick up anything I'm missing.

It turns out I'm a much better cook than I ever thought possible. Everything I've made has been edible, and some dishes have even been delicious. And so from time to time I'm going to share my kitchen experiences – the disasters as well as the triumphs, because everyone needs a good failure to laugh at from time to time.

I've been trying to figure out how to adapt some of the Russian traditional dishes to make them Shirah-consumable, i.e. sans gluten.
It's a little bit of a challenge, since the most popular Russian foods include pirozhki (little pastries filled with everything from potato to mushrooms to cheese to meat), pelmeni (basically just ravioli, but don't tell a Russian that – they're fiercely proud of this “Russian” specialty), and blini (crêpes, very thin pancakes either filled with meats, veggies, and sour cream, or served plain with a bowl of jam or syrup on the side). None of these are really adaptable to the gluten free customer, so instead I'm working with other common ingredients, like cabbage, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, and dill to see what I can come up with.

[Side note: Can I voice just one complaint? Dill must be the only herb that can grow in Russia, because I've never seen one country be so obsessed with just one garnish. I literally don't think I've seen one plate leave a Russian kitchen without a few sprigs of dill, and sometimes it's even chopped up and mixed into the food, making it impossible to de-dill an otherwise perfectly edible meal.] 

Moving on, here is the subject of my first food blog: the Spanish Tortilla. Olive oil, grilled thinly-sliced potatoes, red bell pepper, white onion, broccoli florets, and sliced champignon mushrooms form the base, over which I poured eight beaten eggs. After covering and letting the skillet simmer on low, I topped it off with a few slices of some delicious yet mysteriously unidentifiable cheese that I bought by pointing and saying “I want that” at the supermarket deli, and garnished the whole thing with parsley, a welcome culinary respite from dill. (Although at $5.00 a bundle for this wilting, imported parsley, it's no wonder all chefs opt for dill.)



Tune in next time for more from Shirah's Kitchen.

Miche: Je viens de découvrir que le plus grand regret de ma maman est que je suis partie de la maison sans très bien savoir cuisiner. Moi, je pense que ce n'est pas si grave.....j'étais quand même jeune quand je suis partie et venue habiter chez vous.  Et après ça, je ne me suis jamais vraiment réinstallée chez mes parents.  Et donc, ça fait un peu de temps que maman m'envoie des recettes chaque semaine -- souvent tous les jours.  Je commence à faire des expériences gastronominiques dans ma cuisine.  C'est très amusant, et cuisiner chez moi me plaît parce que je ne dois pas me soucier de devenir malade à cause de gluten dans les repas préparés au resto. 

C'est super chouette que maman m'envoie ces recettes parce que je n'aime pas des cookbooks - livres de recettes - il y a toujours trop de choix! En plus, elle connait bien mes goûts préférés et mes allergies, et les assiettes que je n'aime pas.....comme les chicons hehe :)

En tout cas, tous vas très bien dans ma cuisine, et je ferai des blogs de temps en temps sur mes aventures culinaires.  Bisous!

2 comments:

  1. Looks amazingly good. Ca a l'air divin.. JF

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  2. Oh yes, it does look delish! Seems as though without "learning to cook" your mother's creativity has rubbed off on you. I look forward to your next food adventure!

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