Thursday, September 01, 2005

I’ve been Cooking for Mr. Latte, sort of.

First of all, I need to deliver the following important news flash from Lyon- The plaque problem has been resolved. After much experimentation and a phone call, they are now functioning in a normal fashion. Much rejoicing ensued, followed by much cooking (at least on my part). I’m still consuming about a million times my normal cheese intake, but it has been augmented by many other things now, including- gasp – vegetables! The first night I really felt like I was at home was the first night that the apartment smelled like garlic and I had wine and a real meal and found the classical radio station. As you may be able to tell, a large portion of my life is food-centric. I love to eat. And cook. Because of these two qualities, my chosen reading for the plane ride over (which ran sans food, thanks to the grand British Airways catering fiasco) was Cooking for Mr. Latte, by Amanda Hesser. It’s toted as being a “food lover’s courtship, with recipes” and I had been waiting months to read it.

The book traces the author’s relationship with the man she eventually marries through food. While I think everyone I know, and many people I don’t know, should read this book, I don’t want to spend forever talking about it. After all, if you’re reading this then you obviously have access to the internet and can google it or something. Go on, do it. But read this first, because I’ve already started talking. Ok, anyway, the each chapter of the book ends with recipes. Since I’ve been anxious to prove (umm, to myself?) that my cooking skills aren’t a figment of my own imagination I decided that tonight was the night to enfin try out a recipe from the book. After quite a long decision process (which recipe? will the leftovers keep? Can I find this stuff?), a trip to the store (by metro, ha), cooking time, my end result was delicious, if not the exact replica of the book’s recipe. You should all be proud of me- I overcame many obstacles to produce this lovely meal to be eaten by, well, me. I will now detail the rocky path that led to dinner.

Conversion crisis!- recipes are all in American-style measurements. This was overcome by the fact that I brought measuring cups with me (although, I admit, I didn’t really “measure” the crème fraiche, unless measure means dump a lot in because I really like it). So, not really so bad. I got lucky in that I could eyeball how much pasta I needed, and that the arugula was measured in handfuls.
Shopping substitution- weelll, maybe I should have gone to a more well-stocked market. This could be my fault. But substitutions weren’t that bad. No linguine? I bought the largest spaghetti they had. Lack of arugula? I’ve had this problem before, and always throw spinach in instead. Meyer what? Regular lemons will be fine, thankyouverymuch. The crème fraiche was the easiest part of this quest- I had a choice between about two zillion brands and types. I also got the ONLY chunk of parmegianno regiano in the ENTIRE STORE. Ce n’est pas français.
Gadget gaps- even though the kitchenette is fairly well equipped, there are things that are missing. I haven’t decided yet what I want to buy and what I can do without, so I improvised a lot. I juiced lemons by hand into a teacup, used a grater (with holes that were too large) to zest a lemon, and used two dinner forks to toss everything together.

So yes, it’s possible to cook well here, even in very different circumstances than I’m used to. And it’s worth it. All it takes is a meal that I’ve cooked by myself to put me at ease in the evening (even more so if there is wine involved!).


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