Whoever said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach clearly wasn’t thinking about accessing my little ticker. Long after my past fellas themselves exited the picture and my long-term memory, there always remains a special place in my stomach for one dish from our history of meals, one recipe that becomes a permanent part of my (limited) repertoire. Sometimes even two recipes.
On this first day of real snow in Toronto that I’ve spent cooped in at home, on this day when I had noodles and mayonnaise for lunch and am resigned to canned black beans and brown rice for dinner rather than go out for some real food (yes I know there’s delivery but I don’t like to be seen looking all raggedy by delivery men unless there is a real danger of starvation), I got to reminiscing about said culinary repertoire, and decided to write up a little catalog of it, you know, for my grandchildren’s heritage. So, starting with the most ancient recipe and moving to present day, here it is. Of course, I’ve gone ahead and omitted the contributions from those that left me with the equivalent of an empty stomach or, worse, with just something to sip on.
It all began with Instant Noodles. The twist was egg, broken right over the steaming bowl and stirred in quickly to break it all up into tiny white and yellow bits. When that got boring, we’d do Frozen Pizza. Let’s just say time was of the essence back then, and cooking was definitely not how we wanted to spend it.
The next one left behind a recipe for chilli that could last for days, and tasted better on the second and third and fourth day than it did fresh out of the pot. Patience was key, waiting. And not lifting up the lid every five minutes to see how it was going. It was not any old chilli but Mama’s Special Secret Recipe Chilli, which I understandably felt very honoured to be let in on. But lord it took forever to cook. And needed thirteen ingredients. Ain’t nobady got time for ‘dat! On the plus side, it did come served with Courvoisier.
Compared to that, steamed broccoli initially seemed like a great idea when it came along. Cooking time: ten minutes. Plus, good for health. Now and then, with a dollop of butter or a sprinkle of salt. But never both. Let’s not go crazy here. The reward, now and then, was pasta sauce made decadent by the ingenious stirring-in of several tablespoons of cream cheese. Apparently this innovation was also some kind of secret, though I’m pretty sure I saw it on the recipe suggestion on the inside of the cream cheese container lid.
Then came a time of takeout. Specifically, Yueh-Tung’s Chilli Chicken, which I swear is made with crack cocaine. Chilli Fish was a nice alternative, though I was always a little suspicious of fish that came with zero bones. Is that really fish, then? No matter. When the kitchen is empty, you make do with funny fish.
So there they are, my go-to’s. Not exactly an all-you-can-eat spread, but that’s all I got to hand down by way of Grandmama’s Special Secret Book of Recipes. As a final entry, I might add a dream meal created from a combination of the above (with room for plenty of modification based on future recipes), made from Mama’s Special Secret Recipe Chilli, but made with Yueh’s chicken, with the eggy broth from the instant noodles on the side and (sure why not) a floret or two of the steamed buttered broccoli. You can nibble on a pizza crust while you wait for it to cook.
I know what you’re thinking: Where’s the injera in all this?
Working on it. It’s really hard to master. I can barely execute this food/relationships metaphor without confusing myself (and you too, I’m sure), do you think I can get that tricky injera batter to ferment just right? Meantime, let me get started on that heart-hurting brown rice n’ black beans. Best served with a stiff eggnog.