No matter where I travel, whether on the subway in Toronto or to places more exotic or distant, I always have a camera handy thanks to my smartphone. What a marvel those expensive gizmos are (don’t wear/carry them close to your body, though). They cost as much as a cheap desktop computer, you can load them with apps that do things like keep lists (Wunderlist, To-Doist), allow digital hoarding (Evernote, Cubby, iCloud), stoking multiple addictions (Pinterest) or discovering food porn (Instagram, Tumblr).
I confess I’ve spent (wasted is such as harsh word) days and weeks immersed in clicking from site to site in the pursuit of knowledge, entertainment, recipes or diversion. The thing is, the real world awaits. Yes, it’s lunch/dinner time.
Last week, I wanted boiled eggs so I popped half a dozen into a pot. When they were cooled, I stood staring at the half jar of beet juice left over from a binge the night before. Eureka. How about if I pickled the eggs? The first day, the white flesh was a bubblegum pink about 1 centimeter deep. They tasted just fine. The next day when I cut two open for a salad plate, the rosy hue had sunk deeper into the white and the texture had fired up. One day three, the tint had sunk in all the way and the whites had a mouth feel like tofu – sort of rubbery and firm. I am so over tofu, especially since it’s hard to find versions made with non-genetically modified soybeans. As pretty as those eggs were, I was done with that experiment.
The next day I met a writing friend for lunch. In the same plaza in north Aurora was an Asian food market. In preparation for our trip to Korea in the fall I’d been searching for gochugang, a Korean sweet-hot cooking paste that’s all the rage on BonAppetit.com.
I stood before a wall of bottled sauces with labels I couldn’t read, but the drawings of roosters and flaming peppers gave me a clue of the contents. I pulled products off the shelves one by one. Yeah – found it in a plastic tub. I’ve used it on everything – in marinades, in sauces with grilled shrimp, slathered on my hamburger, dolloped into a bowl of oxtail lentil soup. Amazing stuff – even Hub doesn’t find it too hot to the taste. I’m hooked.
Of course I wandered around looking for new and interesting food items. After all these years in the kitchen, I find cooking boring most of the time. Imagine if we didn’t have to eat how much money we could save. It’s enjoyable, sure, when you’re not thinking about how that brownie is going to add another fat dimple to your ass or that pesto cream sauce on the penne rigate with smoked salmon is going to thicken your waistline.
I came across a package of ‘black duck’. Raw, the skin is actually the same shade as my keyboard. I had no interest in testing what it looks like cooked. There was pork belly though, and I fleetingly thought of curing my own bacon again, except that the neatly cut rectangles of pig had nipples on them and I remembered how much I hated having to surgically slice off the thick rubbery flesh before applying to cure mixture, so they stayed in the butcher’s display case. I considered buying some fresh fish, but the lonely occupants of the giant tank looked more sad than enticing, so I left them to live another day. Then there was the bowl of octopus parts and packages of reduced-price salmon spines and fish heads – for soup, I imagine, to accompany the four varieties of weirdly-shaped molluscs in the next case. As much as I enjoy trying something new, that was just not my style, so I took a pass and bought a package of giant tomatillos to roast for a tasty salsa verde.
Back at home, I accepted that I prefer to write adventures in eating for my fictional characters.