Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Long Overdue Confession: Cooking for People is my Drug of Choice

I know it's crazy language I'm using, but it's the only explanation I can find. I'm a junkie and it's a good thing that "my drug of choice" won't really kill me (only make me exhausted) and it actually makes people very happy.

BTW, this post is brought to you thanks to Jo(e)'s comment to my previous post. I've been meaning to make this confession forever, Jo(e), and I guess this time is as good as any other! ;-)

The statement from the title comes from February 2013, at a church retreat: it was close to midnight and I was in the kitchen making a HUGE bowl of salsa from scratch (pretty useless task, BTW, considering that it was winter & my friends in charge of the food had bought the cheaper horrid big tomatoes that are harvested green and hard and, therefore have no taste -- I personally only use Roma tomatoes from Mexico that Costco sells). Thankfully, my friend Matt was helping me and when someone came down to check on us, it finally dawned on me and I blurted out, quite cheerfully, to whoever was there: "Cooking for people is my drug of choice, that's why I'm here preparing this salsa!"

The truth is, Jo(e), I've been cooking for 50 or more people for years and years... it started back in college when we had spiritual retreats with our friends from the university. The first retreat, back in 1992 had only about 35 people, so it wasn't that hard to cook for that many people with my friends' help. Our last retreat in 1995, however, (after I was already married, before we moved to the U.S.), had between 50-60 people and I prepared the menu, shopped and cooked for everyone all by myself as always (with some minor help from everyone who was divided up in shifts).

And that was in Brazil, so we had no prepared foods of ANY kind (such as canned beans or fruit & veggies), everything prepared from scratch -- all vegetarian meals. And people brought their own plates, cups, and utensils from home -- no disposables, great for the environment!  Sample lunch menu: rice, veggie stroganoff, tabouleh salad, fruit juice, Brazilian carrot cake (simple yellow cake made with carrots blended into the batter with chocolate topping). For such a meal, plus some items for breakfast and dinner, I cooked for over 11 hours straight one Friday.

I no longer have that much energy (see? that's when hyperactivity comes in very very handy, plus hyperfocus from my ADHD -- I've always found useful ways to harness my super-powers and the most useful way has always been cooking!), but I can still cook a meal from scratch for 50+ people. That's how I do it, it's not that complicated -- and it's a gluten free meal too! Once I brought a meal for 40 students and they ate it there in the cramped classroom. I just absolutely love to cook for my students.

The menu of this Brazilian meal I cook for students is relatively simple (photos for most everything below): pão de queijo (sour tapioca starch cheese rolls), rice & beans -- Brazilian style; moqueca (Brazilian fish stew with palm oil and coconut milk) and tofu moqueca; OPTIONAL: friend cassava [yucca or manic], "farofa" (a toasted manioc flour "stuffing-like" side-dish); desserts: passion fruit mousse, sometimes cornmeal cake with guava paste pieces; Romeu & Julieta = guava paste + fresh cheese and/or a flan (which we call "pudim").
It doesn't look that great, but it tastes good!
pão de queijo - cheese rolls

Tofu moqueca
Romeu & Julieta :-)
bolo de fubá - cornmeal cake with guava paste
pudim - flan
I prepare the cheese rolls days ahead of time and freeze (I always have help from friends rolling them). What I also make ahead of time: I cook the beans, marinate the fish & tofu in garlic and salt, and chop all the veggies (all colors of sweet peppers). I prepare the cake & flan ahead too. On the day of the dinner I prepare the mousse, the juices, cook the rice, bake the cheese rolls, and assemble the moqueca. I always have help from several students, so it's not that bad -- except if I'm frying the yucca, that takes a long time.

I'm not very proud of myself because of this addiction, though, because I have a hard time cooking day to day meals for my family, I need to have the "external motivation" to cook for other people, sometimes even random strangers. The motivation is less than ideal, since the high I get from people's satisfaction with the food is pretty awesome. ;-) I do crash exhausted afterwards. Oh, and I hardly eat a bite, I'm always so stressed out and neurotic.

The students' thankfulness and reaction to the fact that I cook for them is worth it. Always.

Shouldn't they give me a job just based on the fact that I cook for students? I wish!!!

1 comment:

What Now? said...

Wow. I think this all looks delicious! And, since cooking for other people is one of my greatest fears, I'm very impressed that you do it for fun!