International Cuisine: Fail.
I’ve developed this weird fascination with cooking shows. I can’t explain it, but I’m sort of obsessed with Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals and French Food at Home. Sometimes I even watch Korean cooking shows. In Korean.
There are a few problems with my new hobby.
Problem #1: Recipe Failure
I am a recipe girl. None of this ‘pinch of salt’ business for me. I want exact measurements. Unfortunately, even with exact measurements I seem to fall short of the mark.
Case study: Chocolate chip cookie bars
In London, I spent FIVE POUNDS (approx. $10 at the time) on an imported bag of chocolate chips from the foreign foods section of Bentalls. I whipped up a batch of cookie dough using the recipe on the back of the bag. Then, like an idiot, I proceeded to broil the cookies.
Case study: Sweet Potato Casserole
Some of you may remember the disaster that was Thanksgiving ’08, when I was determined to whip up a genuine Thanksgiving dinner in a little kitchen in Teddington. Lacking french fried onions, I thought I’d make my own to put on top of the green bean casserole.
FAIL. Cue a giant bowl of milky, floured onions burning in a pan of oil, windows being yanked open, and naked green beans.
Ditto for the marshmallow sweet potato casserole. I couldn’t find the mini marshmallows my mom’s recipe called for, so I had to halve giant pink and white ones.
Problem #2: Insufficient ingredients and/or cooking facilities
The recipes on these shows seem simple enough, and I am often fooled into believing that I, too, can produce edible works of art. Until the chefs disclose their ‘crucial’ ingredient, the one I cannot get my hands on in Yeongwol. (i.e., tartar sauce, puff pastry, heavy cream)
Alternatively, the dishes require a kitchen utensil that I lack. (i.e., blender, oven)
So I try to come up with an alternative method.
Case study: Rice Cooker Carrot Cake
I found this recipe for an easy, delicious carrot cake that I could make in my rice cooker. All I had to do was stir the ingredients and press start on the rice cooker. How could it go wrong?
This is how.
I knew things weren’t right when I had to press start for a third time. This is a direct quote from the ZenKimchi website:
You shouldn’t need the third time cooking. After the 3rd time, if the middle of the cake is still wet, you’re on your own – I don’t know if it’s your batter or your rice cooker.
I’d say it’s a third factor: the cook.
Problem #3: False Hopes
Sometimes, sometimes, when I cook something, it comes out just as it was supposed to. See this post if you don’t believe me. This builds false confidence and encourages me to keep trying new recipes. This problem is the most critical, because one successful 30-minute ragu will lead to a string of failures (i.e., lifeless snickerdoodles, liquid zucchini bread, burned pumpkin seeds, undercooked vegetable fritters, blackened rustic potato omelette)
Case study: 김치 찌개
Kimchi Jjigae is a common Korean dish. It’s basically a stew, which means you can mix a whole bunch of things together and it will probably come out ok. I used this recipe and a 돌솥 (stone pot), which made me feel like a real expert.
Jared and I were so excited, we sent a series of photo texts to our then-co-teachers. To them, it would have been like receiving a text message that I had learned to tie my shoe. Kimchi jjigae is renowned for being easy. Maybe that’s why I have replicated it with similar degrees of success every time. I don’t even use a recipe anymore. Gasp.
Despite the lack of practical application that stems from these cooking shows, I continue to watch them eagerly, in the hope that one day I will produce a flawless lasagna or perfectly cooked loaf of bread. In the meantime, you are all welcome to my apartment for a hearty kimchi jjigae.