Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Full Story

A Recipe for Adaptation

While I have never been a complete slave to the recipe, the ease of methodically performing steps to produce a guaranteed tasty meal rarely forced me to experiment. Where there are no need for substitutions, why bother to adapt? 

I recently relocated from Civilization, Canada to a (very) small island in the Adriatic Sea.  No longer able to browse online recipe sites, lazily print off handy shopping lists and run off to the store to stock up on required ingredients, I am now faced with the challenge of food in a foreign language and making meals from whatever is available at said precise time. 

At first I was frustrated by lack of ingredients (what do you mean there are no tortillas?!) and painstakingly tried to explain cumin to my blank-faced sweetheart, Saša, who had never even heard of refried beans.  While he served us hot plates of čevapčići and pans full of crispy girice, I lamented over the wonderful meals I could have been making "if only I could find (insert typical ingredient here)..."  I missed cooking and I felt left out.

Determined to find my place in the kitchen, I began to accept the differences and found zen with the fact that I would not have a burrito again until summer.  Slowly I started to look at recipes, not for direction, but for inspiration.  I soon found myself becoming cleverly creative, sometimes preparing dishes that slightly resembled something I used to make and often developing delicious concoctions I'd never have considered before.

Holy Guacamole 

Anyone who knows me well can attest that my happiness is sealed in finding the perfect avocado.  Western Canada is hardly a producing region, but every supermarket carries an ample supply of imported Hass'.  I'd grown accustomed to sorting through the newly stocked, rock solid under-ripes and the thin skinned, hollow shells of blackened mush in an effort to find that elusive green god and those around me were always kept well informed of my missions accomplished.  It was a fairly tragic moment when I came to the realization that the people of Croatia were not blessed by their presence.  I put on a brave face while secretly I mourned.

We were perusing the aisles of a market in a nearby town when I spotted them hidden amongst the cabbage and leeks; six big, beautiful (and worth their weight in gold) avocados.  I dropped the carrots I had reached for, pointed and shrieked "We can have guacamole!"  It was as if everything else just disappeared and nothing from that point forward mattered.  I didn't care that the can of bean sprouts I'd been eyeballing was way beyond our budget and had to stay on the shelf.  I didn't care that peanut butter is non-existent and that Nutella, while tasty, is a less than suitable candidate for substitute.  I didn't care about anything other than going home with an avocado.

Saša told me he'd tasted one once and thought it was boring; now I had one avocado and one chance to change his mind.  My immediate instinct to make guacamole was wavering.  Without being able to serve it with tortilla chips or inside a bursting burrito would the appeal suffer a loss?    We had some leftover cooked chicken - perhaps some killer club sandwiches?  Seriously, if you had one avocado and no idea where the next one was coming from - what would you do?

As we both sat staring at our empty plates, Saša scooped up some leftover guacamole with his fork.  I did the same.  That evening I typed out an email to my sister and my mom, excitedly sharing the tale of my avocado treasure.  "I finally introduced him to guacamole!" I wrote, relaying every moment of the event in explicitly vivid detail.  As always, I attached a photograph of the final creation... 

where perfect avocados go to die

My sister replied that the bread looked fabulous.  My mom suggested I start writing a food blog...

The Perfect Avocado

So it seems, here at the end of the story, that it is really the beginning. A single avocado producing so much more than guacamole.

This blog will not be gourmet, nutritional or technical. This blog will not be for recipes, but will share ideas and stories about the process and products I use. This blog may offend the real chefs and cooks of the world as I carelessly lick spoons (twice), burn my fingers, misuse equipment and combine wrong ingredients. This blog will be nothing more than a record of my own food finds and taste-test tales; a collection of culinary adventures from my kitchen (and possibly yours).

In actuality, that avocado was far from my usual ideal; however, its perfection was found in simply just being.