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.
Oh, dear, cooking.
My longest roommate and I, had three permanent house rules.
- When in doubt, add more cinnamon.
- Recipes are for the weak.
- 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.
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.