Thursday, August 18, 2011

"my cooking experience"

guest blog with shannon pogodzinski

yes, experience, as in, referring to a singular event, the one i’m about to describe as my first and only. you may be skeptical this can be true, and you may consider it an exaggeration if you, like me, typically consider throwing pasta noodles and sauce together, or stir frying frozen veggies as “cooking.” 
although still an experience, especially with a bottle of vino and some good tunes, this is not how others in the world define cooking.

to better understand the context of this mission, a little background may help. you see, bartsch and I have pretty much been bff’s since the day we met in college.  and since that day, i’ve spent many of random nights awestruck, watching her whip things up in the kitchen. i’ve sampled the crunchy bake, i’ve reveled in the chicken lasagna, i’ve demanded the chicken enchiladas and have even put aside my fear of meat on the bone to indulge in her random “chicken on the bone” entrees. At 19, stacy had created more dishes from scratch than I have in my entire lifetime. All the while, my job was to secure enough franzia for a good night.

stac in the kitchen is like a painter with a brush. she just throws sh$# together, only to create something so incredibly delicious, you’re left wondering “how the heck did she do that?!” her response to this, and it always is, “it’s easy, you just throw sh#$ together.” or so she’s been telling me for the last 10 years. we’ve maybe had this exact conversation 500+ times. and we can’t seem to find a middle ground. i can’t understand how this is easy, and she can’t understand why this seems hard.

for those of us without the cooking genome, working in the kitchen is nothing short of terrifying. it seems so complex and time consuming, not to mention dangerous. there is no such thing as a “simple recipe.”

so this brings me to today. stac created this blog to share her love of cooking with friends and food-lovers alike, and also, to demonstrate, really, how *easy* cooking can be. i somehow agreed (i’d like to believe, on a night when champagne was free-flowing) to make one of her recipes and live to blog about the ease of it. below is a recount of that experience...

saturday, july 16, 2011. c-day.
test recipe: veggie burgers (a la the april 27, 2011 post)

9:30 a.m. - create shopping list.
10:00 a.m. - head to target to purchase silverware and serving dishes for entertaining.  (there is a story here, perhaps my next blog post, which could be titled, “how you can eat every meal with chopsticks.”)
1:00 p.m. - grocery store extravaganza. on the list: black beans, cannellini beans, red pepper, jalapenos, onion, artichoke, a boat load of spices, egg, bread crumbs and oats. contemplating making my own guac to complete the full cooking everything from scratch “experience.”
1:10 p.m. - feeling awesome and official shopping from a list. bean aisle. check.
1:12 p.m. - eggs, check.
1:20 p.m. - near meltdown, spice aisle.
1:22 p.m. - text to stac “do all spices need to be purchased in the spice aisle or produce section?” (bottled spice names overlap with fresh produce ingredients, fyi).
1:25 p.m. - text from stac confirming sage can be purchased in the spice aisle. parsley needs to be fresh, and she’ll bring the oregano...from her garden.
1:30 p.m. - on the hunt for breadcrumbs
1:33 p.m. - circling the store for breadcrumbs
2:00 p.m. - leaving the store. pre-made guac in tow. reality of having to make something with these seemingly unrelated ingredients is setting in.
3:00 p.m. - a quick run to soothe the nerves. the pre-game warm-up if you will.
6:00 p.m. - stac and nicole arrive. stac compliments my new serving dishes. (sweet).
7:10 p.m. - the cooking begins. rules: stacy will only answer two questions. (not sweet).

step one: chop veggies. involves the food processor. (q: can I just throw the veggies in? a: “yes”).

somehow the “chop” button led to pureeing the ingredients. (i later find out i was supposed to “pulse”...twice. would have been good to know up-front and i’m still confused about why “chop” is labeled as such, and also, what the “puree” function does if “chop” purees...but, I digress).

step two: (q: do i still saute the pureed veggies? a: “yes.”) so we saute veggies. realization: “oh wow, this is the first time i’m using my stove.”

step three: mash beans, egg, oats and breadcrumbs. (messy.)
realization: “apron’s must actually be functional, wish i had one.”

step four: add pureed, and then sautéed, veggies to above mixture.

step five: more mashing.

step six: form patties and freeze.

step seven: drink wine, congratulate yourself on a job well done and wait until patties are kinda sorta frozen. (note: bean burger batter may be everywhere).

step eight: after about approx. 40 minutes, pan-fry burgers stove-top style.

step nine: serve with salsa, guac, sweet potato fries.

step ten: cheers and enjoy.

afterword: “was it easy?”

the recipe itself actually was very easy, and i absolutely will make it again. (to date, i’ve told just about everyone i know, that i now know how to make veggie burgers). the stressful part was all of the pre-game prep and the difficult part was all of the hand/eye coordination needed to successfully maneuver the equipment and tools to get the ingredients into a place where they could be cooked. it felt super awkward, like what i would imagine dancing with two left feet to feel like.

so, to confirm, i’m not a natural in the kitchen. and to confirm, i am in even more in awe of stacy bartsch and fellow friends who find the time, effort and energy to create masterful homemade meals. i take my hat off to you ladies. and, the next time you invite me to dinner, i will smile, say yes...and ask what i can bring to drink.


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