Thursday, July 26, 2007

Door Knock Dinners

Remember that show with uber-popular chef Gordon Ramsey (how embarrasing, I've been rightly corrected by a fellow blogger, thanks Dr. Jeff, that it is Gordon Elliot who hosted that show, and he is Australian, not Brit. My apologies.) speaking in an accent so strong I couldn't understand half of what came out of his irreverent mouth? It was shown on Food Network in Manila, when Food Network was new and everyone went crazy over shows featuring Ming Tsai, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali etc...?

He would go to a chosen home with a chef in tow, knock on the door and to the utter surprise of the inhabitants he and his crew would then rummage through the cupboards, cellar, refrigerator and freezer and whip up a fantastic dinner with whatever they could find. Some families were lucky they had just gone food shopping before the "knock", others were embarassed with the skeletons they had hiding in their kitchen- imagine year-old turkeys with the worst freezer burn imaginable, rock-hard and unrecognizable minced meat, expired canned goods and dairy products, stale bread, moldy cheese; these were the stuff nightmares were made of, certainly nothing you would serve at a fantastic sit-down dinner.

Yet serve these Gordon and his crew did. With a telented chef as his magic wand he would turn these freakish ingredients into an appealing meal, and the famished, delighted family all sat down to a wonderful dinner.

I'm writing about it now because I usually have a late lunch at home and have to rummage about my tiny kitchen, throwing things together and getting hungrier by the minute. I'm not the cornflakes and milk sort of person, and I can't imagine eating a slice of toast with some cheese when I'm ravenous. I always manage to make something that is more presentable than leftovers and sometimes, they taste pretty darn good. I scarf this down with ice-cold tea or Coke light and marvel at the laboratory that is my kitchen. I have some cookbooks with me, most are in Manila. I peruse them and use them whenever I let someone else do the cooking. I don't really enjoy following recipes to the letter, nor do I enjoy stocking up on the ingredients necessary to make 1 meal from a cookbook. I'd rather experiment. Kitchen wizardry, for me, is cooking without loads of technical knowledge or theoretical back-up. The best chefs are not those on the Food Network or those who have tons of cookbooks with their names emblazoned in the front. Jeffrey Steingarten, my favorite food author, is a former lawyer and current food critic. Patricia Wells was hopeless in the kitchen before she married. Food bloggers like Marketman, Lori of Dessercomesfirst, Joey of 80 Breakfasts... these are the kitchen wizards of today, experienting endlessly with unique results, always eating, always cooking, never afraid to fail.

I've had my failures in the kitchen. Too salty, too soggy, weird-tasting combinations have all made their humiliating trek from pan to plate to stomach. I'm proud of all my failures though. Cooking up a storm is not possible without some lightning strikes and forceful gales that leave the kitchen a mess and the tastebuds wailing for mercy.

So far, my lunches have been delicious. All manner of stuff thrown in from my well-stocked cupboard and ill-stocked refrigerator have found their happy way to my numerous pots and pans. I call them my door-knock lunches.