Tag Archives: cooking

Like water for chocolate

Did you ever wonder what the title, Like Water for Chocolate, means? Me neither, until my daily writing prompt suggested that I write about “a meal” and waxed poetic about a great scene (or so they said) in Moby Dick where they ate chowder; how Cold Mountain was a virtual smorgasbord of country cooking; and how the author of Like Water for Chocolate wove recipes into her novel. Disappointed with the prompt, I decided to delay writing to look up Like Water for Chocolate, which I remembered enjoying, despite not knowing what the title meant. Spoiler, it’s a double entendre.

The title, Like Water for Chocolate, is a metaphor for sexual tension. When you make hot chocolate with water (which is how they do it in Mexico), the water has to come to a boil before you add the chocolate. Need I say more? If sex is too outré a subject for you, think of it as romance, an infinitely more interesting writing prompt than “a meal.”

The other night, in an attempt to avoid cooking, I put together an odd assortment of edible items. The main dish was a spinach quiche I’d picked up at an overpriced supermarket. While wandering that same store looking for inspiration, I also snagged two spring rolls full of lettuce, cucumber, and carrots, topped with sliced avocado. I wasn’t sure they would complement the quiche, but I knew I had to augment it if it was going to pass as dinner.

As the dinner hour neared, and I reviewed my plan, I decided the plates would still be lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, so back to the refrigerator I went. It harbored an elderly cauliflower waiting patiently to be noticed, so I dug out one of my few recipes and set to work. Basically, you deconstruct the cauliflower, cover with olive oil, and then mix in sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, pepper, and paprika. Into the oven it goes, at as close to 500° as you can get without setting off your smoke alarms, and half an hour later, voila, a vegetable side dish.

It was an unconventional meal, not all that unusual in my house as cooking is not something I enjoy, but it was a step up from chips and salsa, which I admit we have dined on once or twice. But no matter what I deliver to the table, my husband expresses gratitude for being fed, which I find romantic.

Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, I’ll close with this thought. Instead of giving your valentine candy or flowers or taking them out for an expensive meal, cook for them. Nothing says romance like an assortment of edible components that someone else plates for you. Of, if you’re just not into cooking, you can give them a book with a meal in it, like Moby Dick, Cold Mountain, or Like Water for Chocolate.


Cooking is for the birds

Did you read my last post about cooking my first turkey? The sub-text, which I skipped over when I realized how much I had to say about the turkey experience itself, is that I don’t like to cook. I blame my mother.

I love my mom. I think she did a great job, considering what she had to work with. When friends talk about how lacking their own mothers are, I offer to lend them mine so they can get whatever it is they didn’t get from theirs. I feel very lucky in the mom department. But when it came to cooking, she fell down on the job. Mind you, we weren’t starving. She knew how to cook and she did feed us, but from my perspective she wasn’t enjoying it. (She may, of course, have a different take on the subject and she’s welcome to comment if she feels the need.) Having observed that cooking was a thankless task, I had no compelling desire to learn how to do it. Then I met Andrew.

On our third date, he made dinner for me at his apartment. I remember sitting in his kitchen in Somerville, drinking the wine I’d brought and eating the goat cheese he’d put out for me to munch on while he bustled about. The meal started with tomato soup, and he served roasted tomatoes with the entrée. I don’t like tomatoes, but I was impressed with his culinary skills. I congratulated myself on having found a man who was not only handsome, smart, and funny, but could cook. When he found out that I was a take-out kind of gal, he was disappointed. I decided to step up my cooking.

Then I met my future mother-in-law and I began to feel like I was living inside a bad joke with the punch line, “not as good as his mother makes it.” My MIL is an outstanding cook. I was intrigued, and a little annoyed. Particularly because, after committing to the long-term relationship, I discovered that Andrew didn’t actually do much cooking. He had cleverly dangled the possibility that he would cook as bait and I had swallowed the hook.

During our double-income-no-kid years, cooking never posed much of a problem. Between Andrew’s penchant for pizza and my love of Chinese food we could go for weeks without turning on the oven. Then we had Hannah and we had to confront the subject all over again. Although Andrew argued that pizza provided a balanced meal, Hannah never developed a taste for it, and before she had teeth who could blame her?

I managed to perfect half a dozen suitable dinners and before long my loving daughter learned to say, “That again?” When I picked her up after school, she would ask what we were having for dinner and then express her dismay. I started sticking my fingers in my ears when I saw her coming. While my repertoire has increased, and Hannah’s taste buds (and manners) have developed, dinner remains somewhat problematical at our house and frankly, I don’t expect it will ever get any better. I just don’t enjoy cooking.

If after reading this you’re feeling bad for my mom, don’t. One day Hannah will write about what an abysmal model she had for cooking and my mom will have the last laugh.