the kitchen and the barista

I am not a great cook.

Baking? That I can do. A dash of almond is my favorite to add that sparkle to any creation. Cakes and cookies and scotcheroos – desserts fly from my fingertips.

But cooking.

Oh, dear, cooking.

My longest roommate and I, had three permanent house rules.

  1. When in doubt, add more cinnamon.
  2. Recipes are for the weak.
  3. Respect the Batman.

We spent a lot of time in the kitchen.

She loved bread, and I often tried to indulge in making some when she was having a rough day (which, when getting a double BS happens often in your final semesters).

I would occasionally wake up at 4am to head into work and toss the bread dough I had prepped the night before in the oven, pulling it out as I headed out the door. Sometimes it worked, often it didn’t. Regardless, she usually liked my bread.

Dinner, however, was usually a disaster.

“Let’s make chickn! And add… tomato soup!”

“Hmmm… fried zucchini and pot roast?”

“I think I burned the kale again.”

A few nights ago, my boyfriend and I were pondering what to make for dinner. This process is always incredibly stressful for me – I make decisions all day, the last thing I want to do is decide what to eat! He suggested fish and I smiled politely (my father didn’t eat much fish when I was growing up, hence I can hardly stomach the smell now). He then glanced at me and said, “How about something European?”

He started laughing at me. “Your eyes just lit up!”

I argued with my phone for a few minutes until I pulled up a recipe – bryndzove halusky, the national dish of Slovakia. Potato dumplings made with sheep cheese can’t be exactly replicated around here, but I figured I could make something somewhat similar!

And then came my usual issue – Rule Number 2: Recipes are for the weak.

I shredded my potatoes, combined a couple recipe suggestions for the dough, fried my bacon, and melted together some feta, goat cheese, and sour cream. As the potato dumplings danced around in their boiling water and I wracked my brain for the term “funnel cake” to describe the process of how I was making them, I flashed back to the last time I’d made the dish with my Slovak host sister in my parents’ house. Trust me, it is much easier to make a traditional meal when you have someone with you who the tradition actually belongs to instead of the memories of a terrified and homesick 18-year-old.

He came upstairs as the bacon sizzled and blinked at the mess I made. “Can I help?”

“Nope, think we’re ready to go!”

I served up the dish best I could with no colander and we dove in.

No Colendar

Oh, dear Lord. I can’t cook.

It wasn’t awful.

That is, we could eat it.

But really? Ya need a colander. Ya need that delightful sheep cheese. Ya need the excessive salty aftertaste and the magic that only a Slovak can bring.

I tried. I really did. But I ain’t no Oma, and now I have many, many leftovers of potato dumplings. With bacon.

Rule Number Two: Recipes are for the weak.

Eating Halusky


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