Saturday, April 12, 2008

Learning to cook

I feel very proud of the cooking I have been doing here in my little kitchen in Kampala. I’ve always liked cooking, but I have also had tremendous resources to carry out food preparation: cookbooks, for one thing; ovens, microwaves, food processors, and any amount of kitchen equipment for another; a car to cart things from the grocery store for third; a huge refrigerator and freezer, with reliable electricity, for a fourth.

And if I were too tired to cook, there were any number of restaurants, take out places or, best of all, home delivery.

So it has been a revelation to me how much I could do with very little, using whatever is at hand and making it up. And then eating it anyway if it turns out to be terrible.

I’m feeling my way and adding gradually to my repertoire as well as to my kitchen. My kitchen came supplied with four sets of silverware and dishes, four mugs, four glasses, three serving bowls with glass lids, a dull knife, a carafe, three pots, one skillet, and two (small) strainers. As you learned earlier, I did buy a toaster which has been a wonderful thing. I bought a cereal bowl, a decent knife, two dishcloths (that double as potholders) and a potato peeler (most of the people here peel with knives, but I simply don’t have the facility, as I found trying to peel a couple of carrots and ending up with nubbins).

I also bought curry powder. This was huge. At home I have a vast array of spices that I keep around just in case I ever need, you know, marjoram. Because you never know. Here I started with salt and pepper and then branched out radically by adding the curry powder.

Curry powder is wonderful! I can pick up whatever vegetables happen to be at the vegetable stall on the way home, chop them up, sauté some onions in butter or oil, add the vegetables and any meat I may happen to have, add curry powder and some water, and simmer them until they are soft and cooked through, and serve it with rice. Voila! Healthy meal!

My other staples include spaghetti with a fresh tomato and onion sauce or sauce from a jar (often adding eggplant or another vegetable), or a pan-grilled meat with potatoes and some kind of vegetable. I also make a kind of sweet and sour pork dish using fresh pineapple, green pepper and onions. Tonight I am going to try dal, a kind of curried lentils, using a recipe I pulled from the internet.

Mostly it’s the making do part that has been important to me. If all I have is green beans and potatoes, then by gum, I’m having green beans and potatoes for dinner. I’m beginning to get a glimmer of the concept of “that’s all there is.”

I confess, I really miss cheese, though.

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