Who knew frying food was such an art form? I certainly didn’t. I’ve been off for the past few days and experimenting in the kitchen. Usually I avoid this room like the plague, but since we’re trying to sit on our purse strings as much as possible, I thought it made sense to make some meals that would last for a few days, rather than running to the grocery store to buy more frozen food whenever we ran out. DS clipped a recipe from the New York Times Magazine, and I pulled down my vegetarian cookbook.
My first two attempts were relatively simple and successful. Fava bean soup, but I substituted Lima beans because I couldn’t find fava. Delicious. And a Mediterranean salad: garbanzo beans, cucumbers, carrots, green onions and lemon juice. No cooking involved with this one, which made it even easier. And now I know that I love garbanzo beans! All of this cooking took place on Saturday. By Sunday, I was feeling a little over-confident in my abilities. I perused the cookbook again looking for another recipe. I’d bought 8oz of baby bellas, and we still had about 5 lbs. of russet potatoes left from a 10 lb. bag. I came across a recipe for mushroom & potato cakes. The picture looked delicious: light and golden and filled with yummy taters and shrooms. “I’m making these!” I declared to the household, and set about boiling the potatoes. Everything went fine initially. I boiled the potatoes, mashed them, grilled the garlic and mushrooms. It smelled good & looked good. I added all the ingredients together, rolled them into patties, sprinkled them with flour. I thought the hardest part was over. Then came the oil, the heat, and the frying. The recipe didn’t specify an amount of oil, so I covered the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of olive oil and plopped down some patties. The hissing & spraying & crackling of food on oil should have been my first hint that the temp was too high. I turned the temp down just a little, and set the timer. The patties were to cook for 10 minutes. However, after just 3 or 4, I noticed they were getting very crispy brown on the bottom. I also noticed the oil was nearly used up, so I had to add some more. I flipped the patties over and kept my eye on the timer. Then I noticed the oil was nearly used up. Again. So I added more. By the time the patties were ready to come out, I had put the olive oil away in fear of using it all up, and cracked open a bottle of canola oil. When I added some of the canola oil to the pan, I accidentally covered one of the patties in oil, so I had to toss it in the trash. The experiment went on in this vein. The patties cooking too quickly, the oil disappearing too rapidly, me adding endless amounts of oil. When I was ready to eat, I soaked up some of the grease with a paper towel. I picked away at one of the patties, and when I was finished, my fingers looked like I’d dipped them in oil. And the patties were totally tasteless, except for the layer of fried potato on the outside. I hadn’t added salt or butter to the mashed potato mixture, so it tasted like over-fried mush. I tried a couple, and then threw the rest in the trash. Defeat. My husband says I had the heat too high, and I probably needed to have enough oil to cover the patties from the beginning, rather than adding it over and over. However, today I dared to make another dish (vegetarian shepherd’s pie), and it came out pretty good.
Something else I’ve been thinking about today is how we make friends. A young person we know recently told us she’s not enjoying her new college experience because she hasn’t made any friends to hang out with. She has only acquaintances. She’s at a small college in a big city, so I was surprised to learn she’s unhappy there. I thought back to my college experience, and realized I didn’t have many friends either. I’ve always been a bit of a loner, so I never felt compelled to surround myself with people, but the friends I did have were people in my photography program. The ones I saw over and over again, in all of the classes we had to take together. I don’t remember making many friends in the classes that were for one semester only…classes like psych 101 or sociology 101, where you attend for the semester and then may not see the people again. I became friends with the people I saw over and over. And we had the common interest of photography as a jumping point for our friendship. Perhaps if she joins some clubs that interest her, that would help. That way she’s seeing the same people, and the group has a common interest. I just thought it was an interesting dilemma. I had never really thought about how one makes friends.