Wednesday, October 04, 2006

to cook, oh what to cook?

I had my little “eureka” moment, where I realized that my problem is not so much the actual cooking process, as the process of deciding WHAT TO COOK. That’s where 99% of my time is wasted. Standing stupified in front of an open fridge, or hopelessly pacing back and forth around the kitchen, or surfing endlessly through the web until something clicks.

Because I have no idea how other people do it. How do they know what to eat? HOW?

Sometimes I think that it has to do with being culturally transplanted. You see, if you are Russian in Russia (and I’m using Russia as an example cause I used to be a Russian in Russia, and not for any other subliminal reason), you are used to a certain set of staples: potatoes, pasta, a set of soups, a few certain ways to cook meat etc. And so if you don’t know what to eat, you have a quick and relatively short menu in your head that you know is always a go. By no means am I implying that Russian menu is limited to a few things, what I mean is that staple food is commonly understood by all parties, and is ingrained in all. When someone says “fried potatoes” everyone is on the same page, (husband, parents, kids, etc.) And usually everyone likes it.

But we are a mixed transplanted couple. When I say “fried potatoes” my husband thinks I mean french-fries. I think chicken goes with mashed potatoes – he thinks it goes with rice. (He thinks everything goes with rice. I think buckwheat is an excellent substitute. He threatens to never eat again if I bring up buckwheat one more time.) Food that is mainstream to me is exotic to him, and vice versa.

And… We’ve spent so many years eating at international restaurants, that we always want a “world cuisine” dinner. It has to be something Chinese/Indian/Greek/Italian etc… So because of sooo many choices, there are no “safe” dishes in my head. No simple “just boil some pasta” thing to fall back on.

(Which of course probably also has something to do with the fact that I’m not a very experienced cook… But I’m not THAT inexperienced.)

Anyways, so it was recommended to me that to solve my dilemma I plan a menu a week in advance. Which is a good idea in theory. In practice, though, if I can’t decide what to eat in one day, how can I decide a week in advance? I think two-three days ahead is the most I can imagine. I just don’t know on Monday what I’ll want to eat on Friday. And there is nothing more frustrating than making a dinner no one really wants… (But I promise to give the planning thing a fair chance, and will report the outcomes. )

I also figured that a solution could be in somehow organizing all the things I know how to make. Not a cookbook with a thousand pages (that takes 2 hours to flip through, contemplaiting every picture). But my own collection of tried and true recipes. Maybe then I could find my own staples. Culturally all over the place, but fitting our culinaryly-confused family.

So now I’m searching for a software that would allow me to do that. It has to support recipes in English and Russian (cause I read a lot of Russian sites, and don’t want to spend eternity translating). It has to store pictures (cause until I see a pic, I simply cannot imagine what the dish would look or taste like). It has to make it easy to print recipes (to store them as back-up, and to transport them to the kitchen). Shopping list would be nice. And of course if the program was free… that’d be priceless…

(If it also cooked for me would be a great bonus… but I’m realistic.)

So the search is on.

And in the meantime, today was a pasta day. It started with me thinking that I’m absolutely sick of rice, and spaghetti would be a great alternative (given that buckwheat is out of the question). Which led to searching all over the net for some kind of clue as to what to eat with the said spaghetti, and led to a simple tomato sauce. Upon locating that intriguing sauce, I realized that I can’t have any white wine. And that I’d like more herbs. So it was reworked to include more parsley, cilantro and lemon juice. Mushrooms where thrown in with the onions. The end result was a completely professional-tasting (if not looking) tomato sauce.

And for the carnivores, minced chicken was fried up and mixed in.

I know it was good, cause my husband who spent every year of our relationship telling me that spaghetti is an inferior food, asked me how come we don’t have it more often?

So add check mark in my new staples list.

Maybe, just maybe, if I fry up those potatoes properly, I’ll be able to fall back on them too…

And now, totally off topic:

Please ma… Enough with the Cherios!

My first art project. Alert the Louvre! (And look how clean I am! Cause five minutes later… Let’s just say mommy didn’t care about the camera at that point…)

Ahhh… The wind -- the perfect hair-stylist…

Posted by vasilisa @ 11:58 p.m.

Read or Post a Comment


Your comment about transplanting the people and the elements of a cuisine is very well taken; I hope you will be continuing to address this subject.

Thanks for this lovely and thoughtful blog.
Happy New Year!

Posted by Blogger the chocolate lady @ 1:23 a.m. #

vasilisa, Count me in with this dilemma of what to cook !!sure the confusing part than the cooking..

Posted by Anonymous veggiedelight @ 1:31 p.m. #

Cute kid pics as always! ;)

Posted by Blogger Harmonia @ 2:51 p.m. #
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I'm a 29 year old mom of two! A toddler (kiddo one) and a new baby (kiddo junior). I am also the most horrible (as in I barely ever do it) cook that I have met in my life. This blog is a diary of my attempts to feed my hungry growing family

PS: My name is not actually Vasilisa... But I find that honest reporting comes easier when there is a shred of anonymity. (Apparently, posting pics of my sons doesn't count...)

PPS: For those of you wondering where on the planet I am: I'm cosily tacked away in the Torontonian suburbia of the Great White North (Canada).

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