I’m posting here.
I SHOULD be making some hard decisions about Huppy the Anarchist and print formats vs. web formats, but am I? No. Of course not. I’d rather talk about what it’s like to cook in a kitchen with a two-burner stove and only two small pans to work with.
Some of you may or may not know that I like to cook. A lot. One of the things I was most looking forward to was actually shopping in the mercado here and cooking it all up. (Actually, I’ve found that cooking at home is the best way to avoid the great Mexican Gastrointestinal Challenge.)
Here’s a salad I made the other day:
It’s radishes, onions, tomatoes, carrots, avocado and cucumbers tossed with salt, pepper and lime juice. It looks and was delicious. (That is my only chopping knife and cutting board and yes, mother, I soaked it in bleach before I even touched it.)
Why no vinegar in the salad? Because we’d have to buy a whole damn bottle of it and I’m just not willing to do that. A small bag of salt was hard enough to find. Pepper was easy. Ground cumin was NOT easy. Olive oil? Expensive. We got a teeny weeny bottle for 25 pesos and I use it sparingly. Oh, and don’t look for butter near the milk or yogurt. It’s usually with the butcher.
This kitchen came with nothing. No vegetable peeler, no cooking basics like oil or salt, it didn’t even have a dishtowel. I have two pans that are ridiculously small and one teflon coated soup pan that I refuse to cook with. I use it to wash Peter’s socks and I also use it to warm up food in what I think is a very clever contraption. First, I boil the water.
Then I put whatever I want to warm up on a plate that can take the heat.
On the plate there are two poblanos that I first roasted over at the gas flame, cleaned off the burnt skin and then stuffed them with the dinner from the night before, which was rice and garbonzo beans with onions. I then covered it up and let it get hot like that.
They got hot and stayed hot. What a clever little primate I am. (Works for leftover pizza too.) Ok, maybe not so clever. I’m sure I’m not the first person to come up with this idea.
Logistically, cooking with only two burners and two pans is a nightmare. I mean, last night, I made black beans and rice. I had to cook the beans and the rice way ahead of time so I could put them into a bowl while I sautéed up some cumin, onions, garlic and peppers before I tossed it all in to one of the pans to cook. The other pan was needed to cook whatever Huppy wanted to eat in the way of tortured animal flesh. (I’ve gone completely vegetarian. (Well, except for when I’m in NOLA. I mean, I’m not a complete idiot.) He, sadly, has not. He agrees with my choice though, so he doesn’t bust my chops about it.) Usually, it’s shrimp, which I have to clean.
Here, you buy it whole; the head and everything. I used to never clean my own shrimp in Brooklyn, once I found out the guys would do it for me in five minutes for like a buck. Here, I’m snapping off the head, getting poop all over my hands (Shrimp seem to poop into their heads. What’s that all about?), peeling the skin off and deveining the little buggers. If THAT doesn’t get you to stop eating them, I don’t know what will.
Apparently, even though I don’t eat them, I make a mean shrimp. The first time, I sautéed them up with some garlic, fresh cilantro and lime juice. Another time, I cooked them with onions, jalapeños and fresh tomatoes. Shrimp is easy.
A couple of times, I’ve fried up a ham steak that’s little more than a thin, salted pork chop.
Damn near wrecked the pan because I was so worried about food poisoning, I wanted to make sure everything that could be dead, was dead. And you’d think the chorizo here was great here, but he’s unwilling to eat what’s sitting in the mercado because it’s all exposed to elements.
And lord only knows how it was prepared and what we purchased in the gringo supermarket was just too salty to be edible. So no chorizo.
And forget about the beef. While the cuts look decent enough, nothing is refrigerated and flies are everywhere. I can only imagine the flies are laying their little maggot eggs onto the meat. Ewwwwwww.
Chicken is in the same predicament. If they’re dead, they’re denuded and exposed to the elements without refrigeration.
The only other option for buying chicken is to get one live. Dealing with shrimp poop is about as far as I’m willing to go. Besides, the landlady didn’t provide us with a chopping block and an axe. Oh well.
I honestly don’t know why he bothers with the meat here. The veggies are great and the frijoles are plentiful. Pink even!
Anyway, after dinner is the cleaning up. Sadly, there is no hot water in the kitchen sink, so I have to use the hot water in the bathroom sink to fill a plastic bowl. Also, the kitchen sink is poorly designed. There’s no grade to the bottom of it so water and nasty wet food bits go everywhere BUT towards the drain. Pretty much, the cleanup is me, sort of grumbling and going “Ewwww” and “Yuck” and “Oh my gawd are these people retarded? What is wrong with them? Who does this?”
The blue and yellow tiles look pretty though.
So here’s how last night’s dinner turned out:
That’s shrimp with onions, jalapeños, garlic and lime juice. The rice has sautéed peas and garlic mixed into it. The chickpeas were sautéed with onions, garlic and cabbage and the salad has red onions, radishes, tomatoes, avocado and one jalapeño tossed with lime juice, salt and pepper. And the wine was from Argentina and only cost 60 pesos. A dollar more than 3 Buck Chuck, but far superior. Not too shabby.
That is one healthy and tasty-looking meal! Ah’m mighty proud — yes. indeed.
Actually, what you’re experiencing with lack of proper equipment — pots, pans, utensils, seasonings, sink to wash dishes — ALL is very similar to being “on the road” and living in hotel rooms with kitchenettes. They NEVER seem to have the right combination of things. What a challenge!