When three firetrucks pulled up to my building last night and ten firemen rolled out and made a bee-line for the apartment upstairs from me, I had to laugh. The guy who lives upstairs from me is a chef. We had exchanged numbers, so I called him in case he might want to come home and do some damage control.
“I’m in Hollywood,” he said, adding that I should tell the firemen that he was an idiot and to say thank-you, which I did.
When he got home later, he showed me the damage: a pot of strawberry-guava sauce had reduced into a thick, black sludge, soldering the pot and the whisk together and leaving his apartment smelling like burnt caramel.
I got over the smell pretty quickly because I love snooping in other people’s kitchens. We had some of the same cookbooks. But that’s where the comparison ended. He had plastic squeeze bottles set up beside the stove like a mise-en-place with wine vinegar and fish sauce and oils. His kitchen was efficient. While mine is so … whimsical.
Out of his fridge he pulled a package of ground locally raised lamb. He had these fruits called strawberry guava that I’ve never even seen before. In my fridge there is currently a half-used package of chorizo and a package of tortillas, both from the dollar store.
Practical over exotic
I know I’ve said it before, but it just brought it home to me, how much cooking on sailboats has changed the way I cook. While I used to buy whatever ingredients I wanted, I now cook with thrift in mind. I have even been entertaining the idea of starting off 2013 by using only with ingredients from the 99¢ Only Store, to see if I can get three gourmet meals a day on $25 a week. I am pretty sure I can. So far I made a chorizo gravy and biscuits for breakfast. There were so many biscuits and so much gravy, I was able to eat this meal three days in a row. Let me be specific here: that’s $1 in pre-made biscuits, a $1 package of chorizo, and a pint of half-and-half. On the third day I wanted to spruce it up a bit, so I added a tablespoon of horseradish mustard to the gravy. It was complex and strangely delicious. Three meals, $4.
Further testing my theory, I stopped in again. I bought two very large yellow squash ($1), a red bell pepper ($1) and three heads of garlic ($1). I sautéed these in a pot, then added 1 and a half cups of water and a package of Cajun rice ($4). I cheated a bit. I had some leftover marinated artichoke hearts and a sprig of cilantro, but the dish would not have suffered without them. I swear, I could have eaten this all night. No, I mean it, I could have had a second dinner on it. So the tally again, two meals: $4.