You don’t know this about me, yet. I stuff it up sometimes. With food I mean. I stuff it up in another areas of my life too, or certainly I have in the past. Of course I am tempted to use a certain four letter word. I did in fact, last night: out loud, nogal (which is Afrikaans for “even”, well in this context at least..): I stuffed up a really gourmet-ish fish dish.
I really hate to admit my failures. My beloved thinks I am more loveable because of them. I am not quite convinced. What I do know is that I really, really did not like the meal that I cooked last night. And it should have been a cinch. I have cooked it before: very impressive, on paper and on the plate, providing it’s done right. Properly. With right mind. Zen like.
Maybe that was missing last night. I had the right ingredients. Monkfish tails. Rashers of streaky bacon. Baby tomatoes on the vine. Not white wine, but champagne which I had opened for myself as I started cooking. The dish: monkfish tails wrapped in bacon and oven baked in butter and wine with baby tomatoes on the vine in the same dish done till just bursting, the sweet tomatoey juices mingling with butter and wine and fish flavours…sounds good doesn’t it?
Well, I got it wrong. I overcooked it. I sat in the lounge, enthralled by my lover’s sax playing, and the champagne which I was sipping. Strictly speaking though, it was a Method Cap Classique sparkling wine, South African. I lost track of time. And the resulting dish looked great, but tasted as if cooked by an amateur. Rubbery. The bacon not crisped. The tomatoes were perfect though. I presented it apologetically and we ate it reluctantly, leaving half untouched. I was mortified. I still am, even thinking about it.
I do this from time to time: overcook food, sometimes burning it. Rice especially. I have had many a moment where I suddenly smell it. And usually by that time it’s really too late to salvage. The worst one can do is add water. I learnt that along the way. The best? to tip the entire contents of the pot into the garbage bin, once it’s cooled off, and to put the dinner on hold til another is cooked.
My mother, once, famously, threw away the whole pot! Or so the story goes. I wish that I could remember that event as I heard it being told by my father once, maybe twice. She had burnt the rice. A big pot, enough for a family of six. She would not have used an expletive, except maybe “damn it”: Dammit for short. Certainly not a four letter word, not even “stuff it!” But what she did do, was hurl the entire pot and it’s blackened contents into the far reaches of the back garden, from the kitchen door. I guess that she then turned on her heel and marched right back into the house, and ten minutes later called us in to come and have dinner, calm and composed as if nothing had happened. I doubt that she cooked another pot of rice. She may not even have had a spare pot that exact size.
The pot was not salvaged. It lay mouldering in the back yard, almost at the compost heap for a day or two, and then disappeared. My mother never told anyone about that moment: well, not as far as I know. She would have been ashamed to have shown such frustration, even rage.
I am happy that I know this about my mother: that she could fling a pot of stinky, smoking food almost to the periphery of our modest back yard. How utterly satisfying that must have been. Maybe I should try it, in stead of swearing, next time I f*** up a dish!