So this afternoon, I thought that I noticed an empty pan on our kitchen stove and my eyes lit up with excitement. Normally, my host mom does all of the cooking here. Sometimes the food she prepares will last a couple meals, sometimes a day and a half. And I always want to offer to cook, but there’s only one pan, and when there’s still food in the pan, there’s no need for me to cook. So today, when I saw it barren, I thought, finally, here is my chance!
I asked her if I could cook some time this week. Despite the empty pan, I did not actually expect to be cooking tonight. But she enthusiastically got two onions out of the fridge and asked what else I needed. I thought the easiest dish for me to start with would be good ol’ spaghetti. They have noodles, tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. All they need to do is combine them the right way. And in fact, they often combine all the ingredients needed for spaghetti but with such large quantities of oil and small proportions of everything else, spaghetti never seems to materialize. Tomatoes are also dirt cheap here (about 15 cents a pound), so I figured I could make my own sauce from scratch.
Problem number one was tomatoes were dirt cheap. But now its cold. And we didn’t have any fresh tomatoes in the house. Nor in the three stores on my street. One store did have a jar of tomatoes though, so I bought that along with a jar of tomato paste. I combined those with a carrot, three onions, and two green peppers. My host mom was shocked at how little oil I used in to cook the veggies (see previous posts about cooking. And possibly future post about the oil discussion I had with my host family tonight.) But everything was looking great. And then problem number two arose as I was about to spice the sauce with my lovely Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and garlic salt I had been sent from home (thanks, Mom and Dad!). My host mom said she doesn’t like spicy foods, so asked me not to put those in the sauce. So I had to spice my individual serving. Not bad, but not ideal.
Once the meal had finished cooking, I found myself a little nervous as I sat down to eat the steaming bowl of spaghetti that was in front of me. While I do enjoy cooking, I never claim to be a good cook. And I readily admit that many of my kitchen adventures (sweet potato cakes with pickles for instance) are more learning experiences (i.e. abysmal culinary failures) than delicious meals. However, how could I really screw up spaghetti? I wrapped the noodles around my fork and took a bite. It tasted like spaghetti. Like America. Not great, definitely under seasoned. Could have used some black pepper, more garlic in my mind. But I thought it was pretty good.
Thankfully, my host family seemed to enjoy it as well. While I’ll never really know if they liked it or not, all signs pointed to an affirmative. They did eat all of what was in their bowls. They told me they enjoyed it, and they even thanked me for cooking. Though perhaps, the most telling sign was the compliment my host mom gave me as we were finishing up. She said I cooked like a girl.