Top-scoring meal this week, from my test kitchen at my test dwelling
Here’s this week’s top-scoring meal, from my test kitchen. Which by the way is a 1-burner, ultralight, portable Chinese butane stove from Korean market; plus one pan, one prep knife, a spatula, one plate; no tap or sink, just a water jug and a basin; all fitted in one corner of an 8x10-foot test dwelling space that also has my desk, bed, etc.
Scoring works like this:
0–100 — how much I enjoyed making & eating meal; multipled by:
x (on scale of 1–10) — time efficiency of total shopping, prep, cooking, & cleanup time. I aim for 15mins or less.
x (1–10) — nutritional quality
x (1–10) — cost economy. I try to estimate the total cost of meal ingredients, and dinner had better not be more than a few bucks, or I’m thinking why not swing by Subway for the $6 foot-long sandwich daily special with *everything* on it, or perhaps every other day go for the best available local $7.99 Super Burrito bomb? I mean, one has to maintain perspective.
x (1–10) — efficiency in energy used to cook; water used to prep, cook, clean up; waste produced.
Ok this is not Gourmet magazine fare, that’s not quite the point or at all in my capabilities; but it was, by my lights, this week’s best, and by my score, well into the 90s:
- Pan-roasted Alaskan wild cod ($5/lb at Safeway, wild salmon also, who knew?) sandwich,
- whole-wheat bun, pan-toasted
- fresh tomato and avocado (only $1 this week!),
- tartar + hot pepper sauces
- rainbow chard and avocado salad
- Boston baked beans, with garnish of pan-roasted chard (they got mingled in the pan).
- sprinkled with coarse-cracked black pepper, from 1oz, glass, disposable / non-refillable (they say, but refillable if you have skillz), McCormick & Co adjustable pitch grinder, really about the best pepper grinder available).
- all this was cooked in one medium-sized pan, in mostly overlapping phases. I find I enjoy the puzzle of arranging/sequencing to preheat, fry, steam, toast, keep warm etc each part as best possible, to converge and plate them at the end — kind of a wok approach; and I like to clean up any prep mess while cooking, serve out the pan completely, and immediately clean and stow it and my knife and spatula before eating. Cleanup already almost done except for dinner plate!
- not pictured: rice pudding desert.
Utensils served with: my few, carefully chosen and treasured, favorites:
- Zwilling J.A. Henckels flex all-steel spatula. Bought in and momento of Copenhagen, among most elegant and delightful, simple yet ingenious tools I’ve ever used. From long discontinued line it seems!
- knife & fork from Hema (like the Dutch Woolworths or Target), Bestek Oslo line: my all-time favorite, yet also inexpensive, silverware set, and durable memento from Netherlands trips — oh green and pleasant, also well-designed land!
- small plate from Heath Ceramics (Sausalito), Redwood glaze. Momento of Bay Areas years, from a 80-year-old local craft icon, and a daily pleasure to use.
Full credit to other key ingredients, for man does not cook with bread alone:
an ancient, global tradition of minimalists and ascetics, those by choice but more often by drift of circumstance; sailors, migrant workers, campers, hobos, nomads, travellers, settlers, the unsettled.
- Vimalakirti: presumed contemporary of Gautama Buddha (6th to 5th century BCE), central figure of the playful, proto-modern Vimalakirti Sutra beloved in East Asia, and builder/dweller of the original “ten foot hut” of Buddhist tradition, in which most of the Sutra is set as Vimalakirti hosts various learned and spiritual visitors as interlocutors.
- Chōmei’s Hōjōki (“The Ten-Foot-Square Hut”, 1212 CE): the most famous example of Japanese genre of “recluse literature” (sōan bungaku), also considered part of the ‘Zuihitsu’ genre of fragmentary essays — meaning ‘pen’ + ‘will’, or “follow the brush”. Hōjōki is said to be still taught to every Japanese student in primary school.
- Robinson Crusoe, in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719): exemplary home-building Englishman cast away in or fled to or avidly wealth-building on a far other shore, with a steady discreet eye on returning to and retiring in the Home Counties in comfort and glory.
- But, most obviously, my perennial but withdrawn New England friend, Thoreau, and his much-studied natural living and curiously scrupulous “rendering of account.”
Henry David Thoreau, from Walden, Ch. 2: “Economy”)
“My furniture..consisted of a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs, a looking-glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs and andirons, a kettle, a skillet, and a frying-pan, a dipper, a wash-bowl, two knives and forks, three plates, one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and a japanned lamp. None is so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin. That is shiftlessness. There is a plenty of such chairs as I like best..”
“Nothing was given me of which I have not rendered some account.”