Confessions of Betty Croaker

ratatouille with sides of sausages and bread

Have I ever told you I’m a terrible cook? Well, I am, and now you know.

My roommate, makes ratatouille. I make things like red curry and other spicy foods that people can’t actually taste because their mouths are on fire.

I suppose that my biggest problem is that I don’t often analyze what makes good flavors blend in the food I’m eating. Therefore, I can’t replicate such caution while I’m cooking.

One day, I suggested putting fresh salsa on a pesto pasta dish I had made. Tomatoes and pasta sounded close enough to Italian for me. My sister wrinkled her nose. “You would be mixing cuisines.” I think she was probably right. Basil and cilantro might not be a good mix after all.

I’m a thrifty cook like my grandma used to be. Before you commend me for such skill, please note that “thrifty” is a nice adjective to describe a lot of things, but not a cook. Especially if that is the only positive adjective one can conjure.

I’m the kind of cook that looks at a dying entity in my refrigerator and googles a recipe to use it up. Consequently with this spur-of-the-moment cooking, I rarely have the other ingredients the recipe calls for. Simple. I improvise! … and end up with something barely tolerable but edible as long as I’m not having guests.

The other option I sometimes employ is to keep searching for recipes that only have the ingredients I have on hand (or say “optional” behind them). The result is a bare bones dish that I don’t even want to sample.

When I moved to Spain, my roommate and I agreed to cook for each other once a week. Then I panicked. “What am I thinking?!” But it was a brave sort of panic, because I was pretty sure I could do it. My sister (maybe more concerned than I) shot me some menu ideas.

So once a week, I’ve been ignoring my budget and plunging into the exciting new world of meals with all of the ingredients, even the optional ones. (I eat the dying entities in the back of the fridge the other days of the week.)

After careful planning and zealous shopping, I was rewarded. At my first meal, my roommate took a second helping. Imagine! And at my second meal she said, “This one is worth repeating!”

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