Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Perfect Meal Final

Being at school, I don’t get a chance to cook very often and even when I am home, there are only a few dishes I actually cook for myself. Trying to figure out the perfect meal that I wanted to make was a pretty daunting task. It was my chance to have the creative freedom in both the kitchen and my writing. I had the unique opportunity to have full reign of my rules and expectations for this meal. After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, my first thought was to establish some guidelines for myself, which is what he does when trying to create his perfect meal, but in all honesty, I didn’t want to have that pressure. So instead of creating rules, I tried to figure out what to prepare.
I knew instantly what person I wanted to share my meal with, my best friend and roommate Kari. She was open to new things and I knew she wouldn’t judge me if I messed it all up. No matter what, she would be appreciative that I was the one cooking and it was one less trip up the hill to the cafeteria. So in a way, I was ensuring a perfect meal no matter what because I had the perfect eating companion.
My meal idea hit me one weekend mid-quarter when I was waiting in an incredibly long line for a caf omelet. Why was I wasting my time on something that wouldn’t curb my hunger? I didn’t want some salmon colored egg mixture thrown together with bits and pieces of veggies cooked in who knows what kind of oil. I didn’t want to have to stand for 20 minutes just to have an overcooked, overly spongy egg disk. Sure, the omelets were decent enough and at least we had them as an option, but they made me my stomach queasy, which had me wondering how real the premixed eggs were. I wanted to make my own eggs that I could eat without having to worry about an aftershock.
I wanted eggs, but not just any eggs. I desired two eggs over easy, sautéed mushrooms and spinach with salsa, all on top of sourdough toast spread with a thick layer of hummus. I craved over-easy eggs specifically. To me, there was something very appealing and appetizing about a runny yolk. Normally, I dipped my toast in the yellow yolk, and for some reason it mimicked butter, not just in color, but in its rich taste as well.
Not a classic dish by any means. I remember getting bored with only eggs and toast, and deciding it would be a good idea to add things that I would include in an omelet, but instead of tomatoes, I opted for the more spicy version; salsa. At home, this was a simple meal since everything was right at my fingertips, ready in the fridge for my consumption for whenever I wanted it. It was a common post-workout meal, being that eggs are a great source of protein and I could make a sandwich out of it, another favorite type of food of mine. Here at school, it was not convenient for me to cook eggs all the time. I had to somehow acquire these ingredients and the proper cooking ware all without a car to make my ideal meal. And I was up for the challenge because I wanted some eggs!
Eggs wouldn’t be the first idea to pop into many people’s minds when trying to figure out what their idea of a perfect meal was. I mean sure, they are tasty, but they are also loaded with vitamins and minerals, all for under a 100 calories a piece. To me, eggs are one of the most versatile foods. They are a staple in many recipes, served with a variety of other dishes, and are the main ingredient in many meals. I have never been able to understand how there are so many people who cannot stand the thought of this wonderful nourishment.
In order to complete this project, I had to do a lot of pre-planning. For many reasons, the thought of using the cooking supplies in the dorm kitchen disgusted me. I didn’t know the last time the cutting boards had been washed, if at all, and what had been placed on the countertops. Luckily, my mother came to visit me the night before I planned to cook the delicious breakfast for Kari and myself. She brought everything I needed, even the spatula and pan. Unfortunately, I had to make this meal without toast because there were no toasters in the dorm and it would have been too much of a hassle to try and toast the bread in the oven. That also meant no hummus. I wasn’t too worried about it. The food would still be delicious and wonderful.
After waking up on a lovely November morning, I got to work preparing our breakfast. Kari was still asleep, but I didn’t mind working alone. In the mornings, especially while cooking, I liked to be alone. It gave me time to think and also that way I didn’t have to worry about I had my own system and didn’t want anyone messing it up. I decided that I would clean and rinse my mushrooms in our bathroom sink. Not the most sanitary place I could have chosen, but it worked well enough. Carrying everything from my room to the kitchen took a lot of balance, but I was able to make it without dropping anything. Thankfully, it was on the same floor so I was able to run back and grab plates and bowls I forgot during first trip.
As I said before, cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen was daunting. I didn’t know how hot the stove would get or how quickly, and the weird creaks and groans made me think I was slowly torturing the machine and it could explode any second. The speckled, cream colored counter tops led me to believe they hadn’t been cleaned in a long while and the air was stagnant, smelling on Chinese someone must have microwaved the night before. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was all I had and would have to do. Once I the pan was hot and the weird noises had finally subsided, I sprinkled some water on its jet-black surface, hearing a satisfactory sizzle; it was time to start sautéing the mushrooms.
Time and time again, this meal has been one of my favorites because of its simplicity in its creation. Now, it is at the point where I have the meal down to a science. When making this meal, I first toss the mushrooms into the pan, and then add the spinach once the mushrooms are almost fully cooked. The eggs are then cooked since the pan is already hot and they take less time to prepare, allowing for the vegetables to stay warm. After the mushrooms and spinach cook down into a somewhat soupy concoction and are set aside, I carefully pour the eggs into the pan, not wanting to break the yolks. Unintentionally breaking a yolk is one of my biggest fears. When I want to eat a smooth, creamy masterpiece, accidentally turning it into a squishy, chewy pod of yellow does not strike my fancy. Instead of having just the pressure of making my own without error, I had to make them for Kari as well.
I successfully flipped the eggs without seeing yellow yolk bleeding everywhere, and I was able to time it so nothing was over or undercooked. In no time I had the food on plates, Kari had woken up, and we were in our room, ready to eat. Sitting cross-legged on the floor at our little table, we added some salsa on top, brightening it up immensely.  I watched her gingerly take a bite of the egg creation. She chewed and a smile slowly spread across her face.
“That’s so good!” Kari said. “Its not what I was expecting, but I really like it.”
I was glad that she appreciated the simple, yet appetizing breakfast. Now knowing that Kari was enjoying her food, I dug into mine, satisfied as the fork punctured the yolk, which oozed out of the egg and into the soupy mixture. Delicious. Knowing that I was able to share a simple, fresh, yet tasty meal with someone and not have to eat cafeteria food was great enough in itself, but getting to show off my skills in the kitchen, as small as they are, made me feel accomplished.

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