100 Things #27: Making Interesting Drinks.

I love cooking things. I also love coming up with nice drinks to go with them. Often that’s a customized tea blend. Other times, it’s a homemade soda. Sometimes it’s a juice thing.

And sometimes it’s some unholy hybrid of the three.

And sometimes, it’s entirely undefinable.

I remember a good drink that began with seltzer fizzed-up three buzzes in my SodaStream unit. After having drunk half the liter as plain seltzer, made some lemon syrup using sugar and lemon juice, added a shot of tart Montmorency cherry juice, and then tossed that all in a tall glass. The combination was wonderfully sweet and tart, and the dark color belied the taste that I’d just made—because it tasted like pink lemonade.

A slightly less…successful attempt started with the same strength of seltzer, but with a bit of vanilla syrup instead—Torani, if I recall correctly. I’d forgotten that such a heavy syrup, being added to a seltzer’d bottle—even tilted properly—results n a vanilla geyser. Furthermore, even though the liquid was bubbly as hell, the flavor was flat. Missing that certain something or another. I still haven’t figured out how to get that one to work. A shame, considering vanilla’s my favorite flavor.

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100 Things #22: Cooking.

(OH, DON’T PRETEND YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING.)

I’ve said it before. I like to eat. A lot. I like to eat a lot. I love food. I’m a firm believer that one should live to eat, not eat to live.

Which makes the fact that I’ve been living with an eating disorder for this long incredibly amusing.

I learned to cook when my grandmother would cut off my limit for food at the table. I worked at a Hardee’s at the time, where I could get enormous burgers whenever I wanted to and had the money for. I would often get a charbroiled burger from there before I got home because otherwise the dinner that would be waiting for me would be meagre. As I also tired of the repetitive selection, I started using my check to fiddle around with making things.

…the first few times, it was a disaster. I smoked the kitchen up one day trying to make pancakes. I learned from that mistake, though, and began playing around with different things. Eventually I picked up some base skills—the grilled cheese sandwich, the perfectly toasted fish fillet. My first foray into REAL cooking, however, came from me needing to bum a ride to a place. I paid attention to the flavors of my cousin’s favorite food, and by the time I needed to get things done, I had a plate of hot wings ready to bribe him with. Frankly I was hoping for “It’s edible” as a response.

“…Wow, cous,’ when did you learn how to cook on us? This is actually good!”

I swear, I was floating on air. That year was also the year I made the Christmas dinner and completely floored them.

Since then I’ve taken it to a whole ‘nother level—it’s always kind of gratifying to have a little light lunch on the building common area and watch the faces as I pull out one of my simpler dishes with a gourmet spin—like my California roll. Deceptively simple to make, but so pretty that people don’t hesitate to stop, stare, and demand where I got it. I love watching their faces when I answer that I made it myself. It stops the “but OUR people don’t eat that” argument in its tracks when they find out THAT little bit of information.


Another thing I like about cooking is that I know what’s in the things that I eat—only the things that I put in them. If you’ve ever looked at the label of a back of a microwave popcorn package (full disclosure, YUM), and then compared it to just popping it at home…some of the things in microwave popcorn are…er…alarming, to be nice about it.

I can actually make a few things after I’ve eaten them a few times. I like to dissect a recipe until I can replicate it as exactly as possible—and then improve on it. As a result, I’m just a little bit of a food snob on some things. (“Excuse me. This soy sauce contains no soy—and I’m beginning to suspect no sauce.”)

Presentation is a big thing, too: I prefer my food to look as good as it’s going to taste. This is part of why my favorite Iron Chef is Masaharu Morimoto: his food is so pretty that I feel guilty about being just about to watch the judges scarf it down. Food must be a feast for ALL the senses, not just the taste. I get the feeling if this attitude were more prevalent in America, the obesity rate would drop. I’m a terrible binge-eater, and if I stop to make my food look as beautiful as it tastes, I eat less—and feel better.


I get a lot of grief for being into what’s called “food porn.” No, it’s not what it sounds like. Go search for www.foodporndaily.com. I’ll wait. If you need a snack afterwards, I’ll still wait.

See how beautiful the food can be? Involved dishes can be beautiful, as can simple ones. Making the food a visual feast helps one enjoy it more. I flatly refuse to eat something that hasn’t even had the barest attempt at making its plating attractive. I even try to make my soups attractive to look at—lemon wedge perched at the edge of a bowl anyone? I think that food loses something if it’s just thought of as human fuel.


…Now, I’ll do you guys a favor and shut my mouth. Because I CAN go on for hours about my philosophy about food, and I DO have other entries to get to…

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FOOD RAMBLE!

I’m exhausted. I had one of those long shifts today—though not a murder!shift, when I run laundry AND housekeeping on the same day. However, it ran me down about the same level as one of those would have. I have the interesting problem of being the only one who can consistently handle the heat in the laundry room now, and the problem is compounded by the fact that it’s gotten to the point where it’s too hot for me, even—I can’t drink water fast enough to keep up with the heat, and that heat is considerable.

We’re talkin’ 100°F plus in that laundry room. It gets toasty.

In an effort to keep from going NUTS back there from hunger, I’ve had to make sure that I bring my own lunch.

(I replaced my flatiron the other day…as a result I have 11¢ to my name. But I no longer look like a crazy bag lady.)

Right now I’m in the middle of cooking. I had to take a mid-day nap to get ready for cooking, and so that meant an 8pm ESPRESSO SHOT.

And I didn’t replace my Toddy filters. This is pretty much unfiltered coffee glory.

If I weren’t so wiped out, I’d be wired. XD

 

I’m planning on bringing a plate of “spanimac” and a few pieces of attempted sushi. For those unfamiliar with this culinary kludge, spanimac is Spanish rice and sausage—except instead of rice, it’s deluxe pasta and cheese seasoned with the proper seasonings and meats. Spanish macaroni—or, as seen earlier, spanimac. It’s pretty delicious.

 

Rice is steaming on the microwave top, and I have a can of tuna in the fridge along with some chopped onions (I don’t have any scallions, but these are sweet Vidalia onions, so it works).

The recipe I wanted to use, from Personal Trainer: Cooking on the Nintendo DS, was out of access, however—I might’ve accidentally left my game case over a friend’s house, and so I don’t have it handy. However, I grabbed my Nook Tablet and found this recipe, close enough to the PT:C recipe that I felt comfortable attempting it. Let the culinary adventure begin!

 

Let’s have some fun with this!

 

Let’s play pretend for a while. Say I’m a Tales of Series character, and I’m just learning the Sushi recipe.

In the spirit of this exercise, let’s make a fake profile card for the recipe.

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I’m thinking of using this little mockup every time I try a difficult recipe. I’ve never done anything quite like making sushi, and the rolling, the slicing, everything—I’ve not got a frame of reference for this sort of thing, and so I was doing this blind. The first roll looked something like a log rolled up with paste and newspaper sticking out at the end.

The second? Passable.

The third? Well, it actually looked good.

 
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…It’s 11:53 pm. The lighting in the apartment means that NOTHING is showing up when I try to take a picture. So, no photos just yet. (I promise I’ll make a batch during daylight hours.)

 

I’m having trouble with the slicing, though. The first roll, I tried to slice using my chef knife—and it was terrible, even though the knife had been freshly sharpened. As it turned out, the cutting board I’d bought two days ago came in handy: it came with a santoku knife, perfect for slashing through sushi rolls. I used that for the second and third rolls, and this time I wound up with nicely sliced (if unevenly-sized) cuts. As for the extra-nori ends that I cut off to even out the rolls—I ate them for supper. Sweet mercy, I’d forgotten how good sushi is when it’s fresh…

 

Lunch tomorrow is going to be awesome.