Good Eats

Good Eats
Mama to the Rescue

Brendan Main | 9 Feb 2010 12:27
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We spent hours whipping up exotic dishes in game. Squid fried soba. Loco moco. Keema curry and chapatti. Mama's sparkling kitchen, chock-full of fresh ingredients, seemed infinitely removed from our dark, dank, private little slumhole. Each recipe seemed to taunt us further. Why, yes! Sea bream carpaccio would be good right now! And we'll make sure to save room for that sliced burdock root.


There we were, drooling over dishes we'd never tasted and craving flavors we didn't know existed. I looked at Colleen. Colleen looked at me. We had arrived at the same idea - the same terrible, awful, cockamamie idea: We needed to eat this food, right now, no matter what.

We scratched out a game plan: We would unpack only our pots, pans and utensils. There was an Asian grocer just down the street for the ingredients. The kitchen was a complete write-off - neither the stove nor the sink worked at all - but we could jury rig a George Foreman grill and hot plate in the middle of the living room and fill out pots from the bathroom faucets. We had no phone, no internet, no cookbooks, no training ... but we did have Cooking Mama and a ferocious appetite.

We arrived at the grocer and started grabbing anything that looked delicious: all types of fruit and vegetables, packets of noodles, various sauces. Two types of flour. Three types of rice. In a freezer in the back, all their meats and seafood were sealed in plastic wrap. I filled two baskets worth. We might have been lacking even the most basic amenities, but we wouldn't be wanting for squid, crab and eel.

Arriving home, we found setup to be the most laborious phase of our plan. Every inch of the living room had to be swept, scoured and sanitized. Our boxes were stacked and restacked to make enough elbow room to work our magic. We filled garbage bags with broken glass and bric-a-brac and tossed them one by one into the gaping maw that was supposed to be our attic. After the blitz our hands were raw from scrubbing and our joints ached, but we had finally clawed a tiny scrap of tidiness out of the filth. We had done our part. The rest was up to Mama.

Each of Mama's recipes left a lot of guesswork; though she was all smiles in the kitchen, we knew there was a secret or two she kept hidden up her sleeve. How, from those random assortments of chopped ingredients, did she manage to produce something recognizable as food? We filled in the gaps as best we could. Colleen whipped together a dough and hand-rolled pasta for gyoza. I got to work on the squid-fried rice. Under Mama's expert tutelage, I knew that for this recipe, the squid does not go in the rice; rather, the rice goes in the squid. But what I didn't know was how visceral it feels to jam your hand inside its hollow body. It's one thing to neatly slice and peel with a tap, tap, tap of your stylus. It's another thing to find yourself fist-deep in raw cephalopod.

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