Friday, October 27, 2006

Eating From the Pantry

Years ago, a fellow writer (you know who you are, Mr. S.) wrote a story in which a married couple played a game. The game's name was based on whatever place was a wartorn hotspot at the time, and in this particular short story, the game was called Sarajevo. The rules of the game were that for an indeterminate amount of time they could only eat meals made up of ingredients in the pantry. No shopping trips (except for maybe milk.) Obviously, the dramatic potential for revealing the dynamics of a relationship are vast.

We are playing a modified version of Sarajevo now, not in order to test each other with ever more inedible food concoctions, but merely because we'll be moving really soon now and I'm trying to use up some stuff instead of packing it or throwing it out. I'm not playing by the rules. I open up the pantry and the fridge and I think, what can I possibly make? And if I feel like a chicken breast would make something palatable, I go to the store and buy a chicken breast.

Tonight we had Sarajevo for dinner. (I called upstairs, 'Are you ready for a plate of Sarajevo?' and Bob came trotting down.)

Tonight's dinner started with a single chicken breast and a package of Trader Joe's frozen beef teriyaki stir fry. In the pantry I found a tiny jar of Thai red curry paste and a package with a cup of jasmine rice in it. I also found ghee. (Ghee is indestructible. It's butter heated to melting with the solids strained off, a kind of oil of butter. At room temperature it's solid and it does not need to be refrigerated.) I melted ghee in a sauce pan and dropped mustard seeds in. (This is a pretty common rice dish in India.) When the mustard seeds started to pop I poured the cup of rice in and stirred it for awhile until it started to toast, then I poured a cup and a half of water over it, dropped the lid on it, turned it down and let it steam.

I cut up the chicken breast, sauteed it for a couple of minutes, added the Trader Joe beef and vegetables. After two minutes I added the Thai curry paste, a teaspoon of sugar and three teaspoons of Thai fish sauce (the fact that I have things on hand like Thai fish sauce explains why I never have a big enough pantry. Walter Jon Williams told me one time that he had so many bottles of sauce and stuff in his fridge that he didn't have much room for regular food. I was struck because I have exactly the same problem.) When everything was ready, I poured the rice in with the stir fry and then glopped the whole thing on a plate and called Bob.

Amazingly enough, it was pretty good.

Early in the day I had finished off the last of my shortening, pumpkin and evaporated milk by making a pumpkin pie. So that was desert.

Ethnically confused, but oddly satisfying. I think because it felt so, so virtuous.


Blogger dubjay said...

People in the =real= Sarajevo are going to be envious.

October 27, 2006 8:12 PM  
Blogger lucette said...

You know, it sounds pretty good.
We had cabbage and noodles tonight because we're plastering in the kitchen and many parts of it are draped in plastic. Plus, bizarrely, a tiny frozen cake I found wrapped securely in aluminum foil in the freezer, that neither of us could remember ever seeing before.

October 27, 2006 8:13 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Lucette, I LOVE cabbage and noodles.

I'm just curious about who might be sneaking into your house with little tiny cakes. And wishing they would sneak into my house with a little tiny cake.

October 28, 2006 10:00 AM  
Blogger dubjay said...

Did the cake have "Eat Me" written on it anywhere?

October 28, 2006 3:35 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Walter, that's positively scary. (And they she grew very very tall.)

We had a Sarajevo lunch of rice and sausage today, but I expect we may be running to the end of the experiement. Unless we are willing to have Trader Joe Thai Dumplings with chutney.

October 28, 2006 8:19 PM  
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October 31, 2006 9:44 AM  
Blogger lucette said...

After some conversation, we remembered that the tiny cake was part of my birthday cake that turned out to be too much batter for the pans and was baked in a small pyrex dish. It was 8 months old, but still pretty good.

October 31, 2006 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Louise said...

You may come to my house and make me Sarajevo any time.

November 03, 2006 4:02 PM  

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