- I'm married to one of the best chefs ever, and my previous opinion - that this had solved all my food problems forever - turned out to be shortsighted, sexist and possibly suicidal. It's an incredible opportunity to learn about one of my three loves, and since I've already married her and I'm a pretty good drinks mixer, this'll make it three for three.
- I really can't afford not to - me getting Xin is like Ugg the caveman finding the Philosopher's Stone. There are men who regularly carry rollable knife racks who call me bastard, apprentice chefs who - if they ever find out what I used to do to steak* - will turn me into Luke a la So You're Single Now, Xin with white whine sauce.
- I'm a writer, and no matter how you explain or how awesome your spouse is, when one of you has to walk to work in the rain and the other stays at home in underpants? That house better be spotless, ditto the underpants, and there should be nice things in both.
- We've been watching a lot of Iron Chef**, and if you can watch that and not wish you could cook you've just blown your cover as a robot-Terminator-Cylon.
**If you even have to ask which one, get off my page. There is precisely one Iron Chef, and several name-dishonouring embarrassments.
So I learn! I've recorded my first foray into foodology in photos to guarantee that at least some good comes of it: either I get lunch or Xin gets to laugh at my food-poisoned ass.
Here we see super-hot Chorizo sausages, an Apricot sausage, and a whole mess of asparagus. (This is better than the group noun I used when younger, a "waste of plate space" of asparagus). Note carefully how the meat outweighs the greens and also the big goddamn knife - you should always note when someone has one of those. I'm frankly scared of it, but if watching Iron Chef has taught me anything it's that there's no problem that can't be solved with a single big knife. Unless you're an Italian in a gunfight with Sean Connery, but honestly, you could pull an ICBM on the scottish Bond and he'll still kick your arse.
I remembered some very nice seasoned dishes with sausage-slices, so I decided to go for that - precisely one slice in I realised those are with firmer or already pickled sausages, so here's where we find out if true spirit and determination really can triumph over every logical factor ever. If not I'm suing Hollywood on behalf of my stomach. My money's on a broken-sausage crumble at this point, and as long as I don't read it on a doctor's report that sounds fine.
I added garlic and ginger, cutting the latter into slices from its original "alien organ" shape. Note how I'm breaking pretty much every rule by cutting it all on the same surface, but in my defense
a) it was on different bits of the same surface
b) I'm only risking myself.
During this step the Roomba attacked my feet, explaining how a piece of ginger with skin got into the canola oiled wok. This acted as a bad influence on several other pieces which also somehow developed skin.
Pouring all the meat into the wok left me with the asparagus. I'm not going to lie, the only green stuff I know how to handle is Kyrptonite (Step 1: Keep Away From Superman - unless you're evil, in which case Apply Directly To Superman And STAY THERE Until He's Dead This Time.)
I cut the ends and tips off, because that's what people always do. The ends felt rough and dry even to my fingers, and when parts of me that don't even have taste buds start complaining about food that stuff is going in the bin. I have Xin-spired memories of enjoying the little buddy bits though so they stay. I chopped the rest of the stalks into sections so they wouldn't feel small.
I stop to check the Chiffon cake I was baking. I can send photos of me glassing a bear with a bottle of Jack Daniels to anyone who needs proof of my gender at this point. And the bottle is empty because me and the bear are not.
(The cake is not ready - a chopstick pushed in does not come away clear.)
Neutrino daydreaming of being able to jump that high. "Someday I'm going to tip an entire wok of burning fat," he's thinking, "Then that big two-legged bastard will beg me to just bite him." He then left to find a cable I won't throw him for chewing on (so far he's scoring zero out of all off them twice).
In less important news, the stuff in the wok still looks like food. I'm not shooting high.
After adding the asparagus it's still looking good. It's become incredibly clear I needed more garlic and ginger - the little bits I have now are like throwing three traffic wardens into Mad Max II. I also need to cook it a bunch more, but that's fine, because meat is a MAN's food and will admit honorable defeat if you just beat it hard enough with fire. When it's safe to eat, it stays safe and just gets less and less enjoyable the more you beat it. MANLY. Unlike souffle, the female food, which requires a thousand factors to be in alignment and reserves every right to collapse anyway.
Cooking wine! The food, and I'm assuming a lot there, still needs more kick - at the minute it just smells like sausages and asparagus that happen to maybe be in a pan for a bit. This stuff has been brilliant for Xin in the past, and if there's one thing I know as an Irishman it's that alcohol makes everything better.
YEAH! You see that! That's sizzling and nice smells and stuff right there. I am totally on top of this cooking thing.
I am also very nearly on top of Neutrino, who's playing one of his favorite games: "Stand somewhere Luke will step on/kill me and have to emigrate before Xin gets home." I briefly consider how long it would take to stir-fry a pre-tenderized cat.
I start picking out bits of meat to cut in half and check for "are you going to kill me"-ness. You do not want undercooked pork in your gut - it's the digestive system equivalent of inviting James Bond onto your secret underground base while he's posing as a watch salesman with a briefcase full of samples.
I thereby add the important comedy nutrient of irony to my dish: while checking if they're done, they start burning - the fireworks of over done! I'm saved by one of the few culinary skills I already have, "Taking the batteries out of the fire alarm before starting."
Then you just add rice from the three-hundred dollar rice cooker. This thing is awesome - we were watching Iron Chef last night and one of the guys was using an earlier model of this brand. Or possibly one it sent back in time to make sure it would be created. I know some of you think a three hundred dollar rice cooker had better arrange the grains in the shape of winning lottery numbers, and all I can say is I agreed with you before I had one.
The Challenger has gone for a single dish. It speaks to the themes of "I don't know what I'm doing" and "Hunger", while displaying a strong "stuff I found in the house" feel. The fact that it's actually food should appeal to the judges, as it saves them going to Pizza Pizza, and the way that they are also the Challenger is bound to help his chances.
It was edible with no hilariously describable negative qualities, but I honestly can't claim I had anything to do with it. The sausages were nice because they're really nice farmer's market sausages, the asparagus was fresh, and I just didn't do enough to ruin either of them. They all tasted just like they normally would. The garlic, ginger and cooking wine just hanging around to make me feel better while the food went from raw to not-raw.
- You always need more garlic and ginger.
- Unlike real life, in the kitchen alcohol needs to be applied in certain ways to make things better.