Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Icebox Experiments: Sloppy Joe's and Tater Tots

Belle was sick tonight. She was lolling around in a rather uncharacteristic manner. We gave her a little Motrin and waited. When she finally started to perk up a little, I broke away to make a dinner that would only take 10 minutes of prep at most. And so, experiment number two began. I decided to plumb my memory for the fast dinners that television moms made; when my mother cooks it is rarely quick (though always tasty.) Ever susceptible to advertising, my memory is full of old commercials for quick dinners consisting of cans of condensed mushroom soup, catsup, and some other packaged goodie.

My mother never delved into the land of instant meals. In fact, I experienced the casserole or ham steak and potatoes meal in childhood so infrequently that they actually held some amount of cachet. While I don’t love every one of these American dishes, some, like turkey tetrazzini, can be wonderful. I pride myself on being a middle of the road person, who can love the good despite the situation.

Many, especially those raised by very good cooks, have a palate that cannot handle packaged potatoes and American cheese. Others fear anything different. Still others enjoy, truly appreciate, the store bought and processed. In all these categories, the points of contention are all about taste, acceptance, and experience. They are also about proximity to good cooking, and I think they are about childhood. It is the rare person who has grown up with good food, who doesn't enjoy good food in adult, and it is a person I don’t think I would dine with.

Going back to my centrist palate, I would like to impart to my Belle the love of good food and the ability to find it in unlikely sources. I want her to enjoy the instant food for its instant-ness, just as I enjoy the gloppy Japanese “curry,” and I want her to enjoy the well-made for its perfection, just as I love a perfect Chicken biriyani. While I have detailed, and will continue to detail, the complicated means by which her meals are prepared (next week, homemade rice noodles), I also enjoy meals that lean heavily on prepared sauces.

Condiments are often high in salt and other bad stuff. But, in small amounts, I like the flavor that they add—and the convenience. I could grind prunes and add vinegar for tonight’s dinner. But instead, in the 2 minutes that I had by the stove, while my husband cuddled our listless baby, A1 worked just fine. For me, the problem with those “use one can of this brand soup…” recipes was that they gave busy housewives the hope that they would never have to use anything fresh, except a spring of parsley perhaps. Fresh ingredients and some effort will not be ruined by a dash of catsup or A1.

Sloppy Joes
Sweat in very little oil

1 small onion diced
1 carrots, washed and diced

½ log Gimme Lean fake meat

Once the “meat” is browned, add:
1 T catsup
1 T and 1 t A1 Steak Sauce
1 splash Braggs Liquid Aminos
¼ cup unsweetened apple sauce
salt to taste

Serve on toast and with store-bought tater tots.

(I didn’t want Belle to have too much acid. In the future, when she can handle more tomato, I will add 1 more T catsup and a little tomato paste.)

No comments: