27 January 2009

The Risotto Affair

On Sunday night I attempted to cook risotto. It looked like risotto (texture wise), it just didn't taste like risotto (or at least how I think risotto should taste since I've never actually tried it). In all honesty it actually didn't taste like much of anything except vegetable stock. I followed Jamie Oliver's basic risotto recipe although, after reading it again, I forgot Step 4...

On paper I should be a good cook. My mother and both of my grandmothers were all exceptional cooks and my brother is a trained chef. However, when it comes to actually cooking I'm rather pedantic: I HAVE to follow a recipe EXACTLY (no deviations or experimentation). Most chefs cook by taste - I don't trust myself enough for that. However, it was rather obvious on Sunday that my risotto was missing something (taste), the question is what?

All of this palaver reminds me of one of my favourite Christmas novellas - A Man for All Seasonings (Day Le Claire), which is part of Harlequin's Christmas Treats anthology. The premise for the novella is this:

'Maddie Wallace is desperate. Her soon-to-be fiancĂ© and his family are coming to her home on Christmas Eve, expecting an elaborate dinner. There’s only one problem: She doesn’t know how to cook. Solution: Purchase the sexy, Italian chef, Joe Milano and hope he can help her out of her jam. Unfortunately, she soon discovers that a man and a woman, a kitchen and food is a guaranteed recipe for disaster of romantic proportions!'

I love this novella. It has me in hysterics over Maddie's attempts to learn to cook and in awe over Joe's patience with her.
"What the hell do you mean you can’t cook?" Joe demanded.
"Just what I said," Maddie replied.
His brows jerked together. "You mean you can’t cook elaborate meals, right? You can fix easy items. Like... You can grill a steak, yes?"
"Scramble some eggs?"
"Not a chance."
He glared in exasperation. "Boil water? Do you think you could do that?"
"You don’t have to be so sarcastic. I could boil water if forced to. But the only thing I need it for is coffee and I have a machine that does that."
"Then how do you feed yourself?"
"It’s simple." She marched past him and snatched up the rolodex centered on the kitchen counter. "I pick a card and dial a number. Thirty minutes later there’s a knock at the door. I answer, pay the delivery man, then sit down at the table and eat what he’s brought. VoilĂ ! I get fed."
"Please tell me you’re joking." He took the rolodex from her and flipped through it. "You’re not joking. Dio! You know all the delivery men by name. And what are these dates? Do you keep track of when they come?"
"No. Those are their birthdays," she muttered.
"Their--" He seemed to have trouble breathing. "And the names in parentheses?"
"Their kids."
"Gumdrop? Larry from The Parthenon named his son Gumdrop?"
"Oh. That’s his dog. He doesn’t have kids."
"And this?" He pointed to a notation on one of the cards. "What is this beside Chet’s name?"
She blushed. "Blue scarf. "That’s..." She cleared her throat. "That’s what I knit for him last Christmas. A blue scarf. He doesn’t like red."
Joe closed his eyes. "Of course, he doesn’t. I should have realized."
"Kevin’s the one who prefers red." She flipped to the next card. "See?"
What books have you read that harmoniously meld food and romance together?

Updated to add: Thank you to Kerry for kindly explaining how block quotes work!

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmmm... not sure about books combining romance and food (I don't think I've ever read any... although the movie '9 1/2 weeks' does come to mind!); but I can't help but think that Maddie in the novella cooks a lot like me!