Tuesday, March 01, 2005

to my frying pan

farmhouse pancakes

she was my first love in the kitchen - the simplicity of the frying pan that now seems to mock my every effort to learn how to cook. the first meal that i could cook was probably pancakes (of course that counts). each time that shrove tuesday would come around my mother would flatter me into thinking that i could flip pancakes well. an implement that would flatter my meagre skills! ... you can imagine that to a proud young boy this was the initial luring of me into a career of frying pan dishes.

as a child we had family holidays in holland. all i managed to take away with me as addition to my already limited cooking repertoire was two of hollands gastronomic delicacies; farmhouse pancakes and poffertjes. neither of these stand out as particularly complex cooking techniques - the former are really savoury pancakes with raisins, bacon and apple added to the normal ingredients of flour, milk, eggs and salt. poffertjes are just small pancakes; the use of a dimpled frying pan doesn't really justify these not being called frying pan food. i did try to make these once as a child, but couldn't master the pan and the taste just wasn't the same. they are normally served in a mound on the plate with butter and caster sugar, so perhaps even as a child this was just too much for me? to this day, i think the pan still lies unused at home in dublin (a photo of the culprit: http://www.holland.com/us/index.html?page=http://www.holland.com/us/tulips/culture/recipes/poffer.html)

as i moved through my youth, i managed to earn the scouting chef badge with only a single frying pan. i'm not sure if it reflects a certain irony on the scout movement or the limited tastes of young irish adolescents. for the badge i believe i cooked a particularly complex steak (signified by the accompaniment of pepper seasoning and potatoes with butter). my cooking of steaks didn't change for many years until, as a young sophisticated london professional, i read my first cookbook; maureen tatloe's "the back to basics cookbook". maureen, bless her, radically changed my view on cooking steak, she gently pointed out a number of things that i had done wrong:

1. avoid non-stick pans ~ i only used non-stick
2. preheat the pan dry ~ i always preheated with oil (sunflower)
3. pepper the steak before putting in the pan ~ i never added pepper or salt
4. leave the steak until a crust has formed ~ i always turned after 1 minute and kept turning with the efficiency of a dealer at vegas
5. never cut the meat to check cooking; use the prod test ~ aah, the prod test, the fact that cooking of the meat comes from the boiling of the juices; the harder the prod the more cooked your meat ... the less cooked, the more soft your meet ... maureen, you genius!

blanca noticed this cheap love that i have for frying sometime last year. she has done the only thing that a sane person would do ... she bought the mrs. robinson of frying pans, something so technical and expensive that she knew i would be too intimidated to use it that i would be forced to leave my frying behind. the german designed and built skk is a heavy-gauge aluminum beast coated with titanium (interestingly 40 times harder than stainless steel; albeit my pancakes have never broken a pan before). this pan resists both high heat and metal utensils. it also has more science invested in it that most universities. i have just tried to find information on the web, but it seems to have no actual website. this leads me to imagine that perhaps there is something far more sinister about this pan - i may never go into the kitchen again ... or stick to soups.

an ode to my departed love ...

she was my lover when i was but a scout,
with a wooden spoon to move my eggs about,
in times of need she'd feed my hunger,
she's been with me since i was much younger,

but oh, perhaps this love was just a lie,
she'd let me eat, only what i could fry,
a pancake starter; what today i call a crepe,
a steak for main; cholesterol step by step,

but now i'm older, health is what i yearn,
now onto soups and the saute pan i'll learn.

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