Saturday, September 23, 2006

Kitchen Brain

Food is one of my favorite things. I love to eat good food, I love to cook, and I even get a dorky little thrill out of grocery shopping. But food is not the only thing I like. There are things other than recipes, menus, and kitchen trivia that I want to store in my brain. So I made myself a whole separate brain that I can just set down and leave in the kitchen, to free up room in my original brain for some of that other stuff. It's like a room-specific pensieve (if you don't know what a pensieve is, then congratulations; you're not a huge geek, and here's a link if you're curious).

Since I'm not Dr. Frankenstein (Little Miss Frankenstein doesn't count), I don't keep my extra brain in a big jar of formaldehyde next to the toaster. It's more like a binder.

Here's what I have in there:

Dinner Ideas:
"What should we have for dinner this week?" is the question that no one wants to hear at nine o'clock on Tuesday night when it's time to make a shopping list. So The Brain has a list of things we like to eat. It makes planning meals feel more like ordering takeout, which is a task at which we're naturally quite gifted.

There's a page in there for all the numbers I can never remember: ratios of water to rice, quinoa, oatmeal, barley, lentils; how many cups of fruit fit into our big baking dish before the cobbler will boil over and start a fruit-flavored fire; what temperature is pizza temperature; how much rice makes four servings; stuff like that.

Shopping List:
In a pocket in the binder (so I can pull it out and stick it back without the tedium of wrangling rings) is a list of all the groceries we never want to run out of. I update the list every year or so as our tastes, budget, and eating habits change (the pile of twelve years of obsolete lists is a revealing survey). When I'm getting ready to go to the store, I look at the list, look around the kitchen, and see what's low or missing. Then I go over the menu plan we made for the week, and add meat, produce, and odd ingredients to the list. I used to make a shopping list from a master list without also planning menus, but I finally figured out that that's a good way to never run out of mustard and brown sugar and capers, but it's not necessarily a good way to end up with something you can actually have for dinner.

Easy Recipes:
If, upon an evening, I have a sous chef cooking, I can point him in the direction of the binder, and say, "It's all in there! While you cook, I'll be upstairs blogging about cooking." Gosh, which reminds me...


Okay. It's under control. The best laid schemes of cooks and sous chefs are often knocked awry by forgetting to defrost the day before.

Anyway, some people have an easier time than others deciphering cookbooks, and that is not enough reason for them not to cook. We have a few dependable recipes translated into English as actual human beings speak it, and they're in The Brain too.

The Section That Must Not be Named
Takeout menus. For when all else fails. They're stuffed shamefully into plastic pockets at the back of the binder, but they actually function more like a last resort than as an actual resource. Whenever I'm feeling doubtful about the success of a cooking experiment, I can reassure myself that whatever happens in the kitchen, dinner can still be piping hot on the table in half an hour. That usually helps me muster the courage to persevere, and we haven't yet had to throw dinner onto the compost pile and call in the pros. But there's always a first time.

1 comment:

lauren said...

I have heard about this binder, and I have heard that is a thing to behold. I hope to see it someday.