Monday, June 9, 2014

Operation: Make Lunch

So, just to keep it real...

Yesterday was a great day. I had the house sparkling clean thanks to Hadassah's 2 hour nap, lunch was ready even a little early, and it was delicious. Despite only having one working burner, and only one kitchen utensil (a trusty spatula!) other than sharp knives and plastic spoons and forks, the green beans were boiled to perfection, and the concoction of boiled potatoes sliced and sauteed with garlic, onion, olive oil and salt was incredible. "Necessity is the mother of invention" I thought to myself with a smile, as I peeled and sliced carrots and a pear to top things off.

But Ryan never showed up... We'd known it was a possibility, that on his first day they might have scheduled him to have lunch with a co-worker. Problem was, he couldn't let me know, as he'd had to take the only phone we have so far with him to call someone when he arrived at the office, and he didn't have working email there yet. So I waited for 45 minutes, then ate. It was still yummy cold, and made great leftovers for his supper.

Then today came. It seemed like it would work again. I'd gotten a neat looking rice and bean mix to give us some good fiber and protein. I was excited to find it had English and Chinese instructions too, until I saw that all they told me was "Add a certain amount of water, cooked with high fire, then simmer it to porridge." Okay... ignoring the nagging thought that beans had to be soaked before use - thinking, "It would have said to. Besides, these are mixed with rice, so maybe they've been pre-prepared" - and adding to it my own inexperience (confession: I relied on canned beans in the US!) I set about 1 1/2 hours before lunch to create another great concoction.

Or so I thought.

First I added equal parts rice and water. Pretty soon I knew that wasn't going to be enough, so I added more. And more. Oh - and a little more. I also added minced garlic and salt for flavor. It's all I have, as my spices haven't arrived in our boxes yet. Hadassah woke up and I nursed and fed her solids while checking the pot periodically. When it was 30 minutes 'til Ryan was supposed to be there and the beans were still very very hard, I started sweating, and turned the heat up.

Which was a mistake, as it seems the gas stove either cooks really high or not much at all. Pretty soon I smelled something burning and sure enough, the bottom was caked with burnt beans and rice. I transferred the good stuff to a new pot and kept trying.

Did I mention we only have one working burner?

Ryan got home - right on time! - and the beans were still hard. "Oh well - guess we'll just eat the rice around the beans" I said as I sprinkled in more salt and put some frozen mixed veggies on to cook, trying to get them done quickly.

Finally, we were ready and I'd added some fresh fruit to make up for the interesting lunch. But then... a few bites of the rice told me I'd added too much salt. A bite of the mixed veggies reminded me when I'd tested them for done-ness I'd only tasted the corn and carrots - the peas were still hard. The fruit was good, but my husband needed protein....

Grilled cheese and a fried egg (trying to forget he'd already had eggs for breakfast!) came to the rescue. He was so reassuring while I berated myself. "I should have known dried beans needed to soak!" We'll laugh about this one day, I know, but right then I was fighting back tears.

But you know, it's a lesson in humility. I felt like a new wife trying to cook for her husband and failing. Except I didn't have to go through that when I got married, because I'd already had years of practice. So, maybe this is my turn to learn. Where ingredients are hard to find and there's never enough time to shop with a baby who needs her naps, so necessary things will be gathered slowly.

And thankfully, there are restaurants just a few minutes walk from our house. Looks like it'll be Chinese noodles tonight. :)


  1. I'm glad you are looking on the bright side Anna! I'm sure you'll get used to your new kitchen set-up soon. Have you tried to make vegetable stir-fry yet? You can include chicken or tofu for protein, and serve it over brown rice. Stir-fry is pretty tasty with just soy sauce or any pre-made sauce for flavoring, and it's a quick meal to cook.

  2. Jessi: Stir fry is a great idea! I've made it in the US, just not here. Need to gather a few more ingredients for it, and I'll be good to go! :)