26 January 2007

Learning to Cook All Over Again

I've recently developed a fear of cooking. And it is crippling me in the kitchen.

I was never a fabulous cook, but I was certainly better than just ok. Perhaps even good. I had a few dishes that I had made my own and I knew they were reliable "Company for Dinner" dishes.

But since moving here I have been excessively basic. Most nights I broil a bit of meat (chicken, pork, sausages, whatever), boil a package of mixed vegetables then stick a hunk of bread next to it and call it dinner.

Which actually has been quite healthy. GLH and I are both losing weight. Between the many hills to climb and the simple dinners, I've lost nearly 10 pounds.

And I am certainly not complaining about that! But I have always had a home-based social life and I enjoy inviting people over for dinner. I certainly cannot serve them a bit of meat, frozen vegetables and a hunk of bread, now can I?

So what is causing this fear?

Perhaps it's the change in cooking equipment and tools? I am having a difficult time figuring out what temperature to use. Plus, the oven has so many more options than our oven in the United States and I'm not certain which selection does what. Even when I convert the temp, because there are so many options I invariably get the timing off. Then the food is either overcooked or undercooked.

Perhaps it's the change in grocery stores? The grocery stores do not have my Old Reliable ingredients and I'm not certain what to use. Plus it's difficult for me to ask because very few people who work at the local grocery stores speak much English. At least, the ones I've tried to ask previously do not. So I've given up asking.

Perhaps it's also that there have been so many new things to learn and figure out that I just haven't had the energy to focus on this?

Regardless, it has left me feeling inadequate. Especially given my new status as a Haus Frau.

So yesterday I took a small step forward. I picked up some pork chops. I've never really mastered pork and I tend to overcook so it is dry and tough. But if I am going to live in a Germanic culture, I better learn how to cook pork. And pork chops are supposed to be the easiest to manage.

Then I did some research on the web. The National Pork Producers Council in the United States has a website with consumer information. Including recipes and instructions. Following their instructions, I seasoned the pork chops with a bit of Jack Stack barbecue rub (brought from Kansas City and the only seasoning we could not live without) and then sauted them over medium-high heat for 6-7 minutes while turning frequently to brown them, cook them evenly and keep them juicy.

What do you know? It worked! The pork chops were tasty and juicy and done perfectly. Iffen I do say so myself.

Empowered by my small success, I've decided to brave the kitchen again and roast a chicken for tonight's dinner. Because I have decided that I will learn how to cook in Switzerland.

Now excuse me while I google how to roast a chicken in a European oven...


CanadianSwiss said...

I know exactly how you feel. I think the worst part for me was that I no longer could find certain ingredients.

Now that we will be returning to Canada after 22 years here, I have a bit of the same fear of not finding my beloved "European" ingredients in on the other side of the pond. So, I'll be learning to cook all over again, too, I suppose.

Expat Traveler said...

Yeah I think you have to make sure you have a trusty set of phone numbers of a few expats who know where to get what. Specialty stores will have your other ingredients for sure.

I guesss I learned too. It didn't really bother me and I quite loved the loosing weight part also!

Global Librarian said...

I don't want to figure out how to recreate my American recipes, although occasionally that might be nice.

Rather I want to figure out how to cook with the ingredients that are commonly used in this area. That will take a bit of learning.

Especially as the cookbooks I have found tend to be in German.

Except for the cheesy, and I do mean that literally, cookbooks intended for English-speaking tourists.

Eventually the German cookbooks will be just fine. But ît will take a bit to learn the language...

The Other White Meat said...

Perfect Pork Chops: Medium high heat. Cook on one side until milky white on the top side, then flip once - and once only!!! -- another two minutes to brown. Every time you flip, you lose moisture.

MarianLibertarian said...

Let me know what spices you want. I will mail them. Yes, I will. I do not care what it will cost.

Global Librarian said...

Ah, aren't you a sweetie pie, Marian? First you watch out for our house, then you offer to send me spices.

Any chance you could pack up some Arthur Bryant barbecued ribs in dry ice and overnight ship 'em? With an order of baked beans and coleslaw?

Thanks, Lovey!