One of the unforeseen consequences of being made redundant is that I am finally getting to grips with cooking in the UK. This came about because, as the newly delegated loafer, it fell to me to pick up the slack in the housekeeping department, which includes making dinner for my lazy-ass self and my hard-working wife.
This was her idea, and she’s a brave woman for suggesting it because my previous forays into the realm of cookery have generally ended in disaster—culinary equivalents of the Donner Party wherein, instead of being forced to eat one another, we just had to go across the street for a take-away. I’m pleased to report that my more recent efforts are becoming a bit less harrowing.
I credit this with two things, the first of which is the time I can now devote to understanding the British Measuring System. Having been a fairly keen baker in the States, I arrived on these shores with a set of American measuring cups, and my wife brought her British cooking implements into the subsequent partnership. We also have a collection of cookbooks published on either side of the Atlantic, so the first thing one needs to decide before starting a session in the kitchen is whether the cooking will be done in American or British.
Increasingly, the cooking is done in British, which means I have to get the kitchen scales out and weigh ingredients in metric. So instead of adding a nice convenient cup of flour to my dough mix (like a normal person) I have to weigh out 120 grams.
Now, that is all well and good if you know what a gram is or, more to the point, how much it weighs and what that weight might look like in flour-units. This led me—not so long ago—to measure out 100 times more flour than I needed while making white sauce. Instead of calling for half a teaspoon (which I would have immediately understood) the recipe called for 120 milligrams. So I dumped flour on the scale until the needle hit the 120 mark, not realizing those were the marks for grams, not milligrams.
The result was enough béchamel sauce to keep the Welsh Guards in Chicken Cordon Bleu for a month.
|Vegetarian Pork Pies:,made from scratch.
Another disadvantage I labor under is the electric stove, which—like all electric stoves—has only two settings: not hot enough and way too hot. So a bit of experimentation is required to render muffins that remain within the “tan” spectrum and keep my meatloaf from coming out of the oven still mooing (or, more recently, still whinnying and stamping its hooves).
I am, however, getting better with practice.
|Made these in honor of Valentine\’s Day. Don\’t be too impressed,
they are mix-from-a-box cupcakes with aerosol icing.
The other thing that has led to an improvement in my food preparation prowess is the realization that cooking—far from being an exact science—is more of a dark art. As a programmer, I tended to think in absolutes and followed recipes to a fault, but now I understand that as long as you bung most of the ingredients into the mix in roughly the right ratio and cook the results until they stop looking raw and start looking like they are cooked, you generally end up with something palatable.
And if not, there’s always the chippie across the street.