Cooking & Living on a Deserted Island


I realized yesterday that I’ve been here now for TWO months (and only have 20 months left of my sentence, j/k) and have cooked only a handful of meals. Why? I’ve determined this is for three reasons:

  • Firstly, Raj severely limited the number of cookbooks (ANY books for that matter) that I could bring with me. He scared me into thinking that my books would fall off of a container and into the water, never to be seen again (where is the water he was speaking of?). Back in February when I was struggling with which books to bring, Raj asked, “How would you feel if your signed books were lost, or stolen, or fell off a ship?” (Note: most of my books and cookbooks are signed by the authors and have been collected over years and Raj was playing on my sentimentality.) Can you believe this logic worked on me? (What’s worse, this logic worked for just about every item in the house, which is why there’s so little sense of home here.) I remember thinking that this all sounded logical, as if book bandits would be searching though our containers for autographed Brian Selznick books or Julia Child’s cookbooks.  He had me so concerned that I agreed to his mandate, which limited me to TWO boxes, which is NOTHING and I’m realizing that I’m not very fond of many, strike that, ANY of the cookbooks that I’ve brought. (I’m making a case to buy more cookbooks.)
                                                                                                                                  Here are what the contents of two boxes of cookbooks look like on my sad and lonely bookshelves.
  • Secondly, I HATE grocery shopping here! The stores aren’t that far away, but with the few cookbooks that I have, I can’t find the ingredients that I’m looking for. Yeah, I know, the solution is to improvise, explore the local foods, but I don’t feel like it…not now anyway. Further complicating matters right now is that it’s Ramadan for the entire month of August. What does this have to do with anything? Well, since everyone fasts all day, they feast at night and pillage the grocery store shelves leaving little by way of stock.
  • Lastly, as I’ve complained all along, my kitchen is not functional. I was making pizza dough last weekend and plugged in my Kitchen Aid to the electrical circuit, which is an extension cord that goes up to the converter box (you know the 1970s contraption that I had to hide from my line of sight?). (FYI, in case you’re worried, pizza night has not suffered. It’s still going strongly, every Friday, despite the cooking downturn.) As I was adjusting the speed, I kept feeling a tingling sensation. It took me a few more adjustments to realize I was getting shocked. Now, in order to use ANY of the small appliances that I brought, I have to disconnect everything in order to plug one thing in at a time. You’re thinking ‘what’s the big deal,’ right? The big deal is that the plugs are ALL above the cabinets so that I don’t have to see them. The issue is that unplugging everything requires me to get out the step-ladder, adjust the cords, re-hide the cords after I’m finished…it’s too much work. Did I mention that I’ve gained weight since I’ve gotten here too? Another reason not to cook!!!
So what’s my point? Long story long, I have a question to pose:
If you were moving abroad and were told that you could only bring ONE cookbook with you, which cookbook would it be and why?
When answering this, don’t take into account any of my gripes. Assume you don’t know what type of kitchen you’ll be cooking in and you’re not sure what types of food are available. Just choose your favorite, most indispensable cookbook and tell me why it’s so wonderful. Let’s see how many of your suggestions I’ll be placing in my next Amazon shopping cart.
Prior to arriving, my go to book was this one:
I still love this book, just not here. Most of the ingredients of my favorite recipes are nowhere to be found.
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20 thoughts on “Cooking & Living on a Deserted Island

  1. Of course you already know my “desert isle” cookbook but I think that you already have it, “Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures”. I couldn’t live without this book. So let me think of one that I have, that you don’t. My new favorite is “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys”. There are so many good recipes. I’m addicted to her roasted cauliflower and the Pasta Alla Checca was so simple and so good. You would like this book. It’s as good as “Pure Flavor”. I also really like Anna Pump’s “Summer on a Plate”. I love her oven fried chicken recipe and all of her salad and sides ideas are great. Other than that, you probably have everything else and I know that you don’t want the Pioneer Woman cookbooks or Trisha Yearwood books. Raj would love the down home country comfort food.

    1. I didn’t bring Rick and Lanie. The only thing I ever made from that book were the bar-b-que beans, coleslaw and cornbread. I know you love the apple pandowdy (sp?), but I never got around to making it, despite your raves. What are the ingredients for pasta alla checa? That alone might make or break the deal. I love Pure Flavor, but like ALL the rest, it calls for great produce, fresh meats and fish…all things I lack.

      1. Apple pandowdy?? What the heck are you talkin’ about. I have done the peach cobbler- with a complicated lattice crust, excellent and worth the trouble. Everything in the book is AWESOME!!! But no apple anything (well maybe an apple coffee cake) to be found. Pasta alla Checca- super easy, super simple- the best freshest tomatoes ripped into small pieces, fresh garlic, fresh oergeno fresh basil, evoo, salt, crushed red pepper- leave on the counter to marry 1-8 hours. Cook pasta and toss with an incredible fresh sauce!!!

        1. You know what I’m talking about. That huge apple thing in the pan that you used to make. Maybe you’re too sophisticated for it now and apple pandowdy’s are too quotidian (sp?) for you. BTW, I was talking about the Ricka nd Lanie book and I think you’re referring to the Big and Hungry, or whatever its called book. Leave on the counter for 1-8 hours. That sounds like you’re making yogurt.

          1. Still have no idea about the “big huge apple” thing. Once I made the super-size apple pie bars from your boyfriend Rick Rodgers. The Rick and Lanie has so much beyond BBQ. You haven’t given the book a chance.

            1. You’ll have to wait until get back to my collection of books so that I can tell you what I’m talking about. It wasn’t from your boyfriend, Rick Rodgers, but you’ll be happy to know that TWO of his books made the cut: the Thanksgiving one that you didn’t want to give me and the Dip It! book are on the shelf.

              1. I can’t believe you would leave Rick and Lanie but bring “Dip It”. Even I’ve only made 1 or 2 dips from that book. Good luck with a Jordanian thanksgiving. That should be interesting!

  2. That is one of the most difficult questions to answer. I will have to go with…The Flavors of Bon Appetit (1994) because it has one of my favorite recipes: Beef Stew with Mushrooms and Red Wine. It’s an incredibly rich meal, and you only have to eat a very small portion and you’re full. A mixed salad, proscuitto-stuffed mushrooms and bread make a yummy meal for a small group. You could always go to a slow cooker and use Country’s Slow Cooker cookbook. That’s my stand-in when I have to be gone, worked great on karate nights. :o)

    1. I’ll have to look up the Bon Appetit book, that sound really good. The mixed salad proscuitto-stuffed mushrooms sounds amazing, butI can’t get pork products here. I definitely need a slow cooker book since I bought my crock pot for the yogurt, but haven’t ventured beyond that. What do you make in it?

  3. I miss my Giada de Laurentis cookbooks and my Vegetarian Family cookbooks. I only brought with me a middle eastern cookbook, and my notebook of receipe clippings from Vegetarian Times. We need to hit the library Books and More and see what cookbooks they have. What types of ingredients are you looking for here in Amman?

    1. I brought ALL of my Giada cookbooks if you need to borrow any and I brought my Moosewood (the only fully vegetarian book that I brought). Which Middle eAstern book is your favorite. I think that’s probably where I need to focus so I can local ingredients. I’m looking for produce mostly. We’ll have to go together sometime because there are lots of things that I see that I don’t know what to do with.

  4. I should have warned you. The stuffed mushrooms came from a different Italian cookbook: Regional Italian Cooking (my favorite lasagna recipe), by Ruth Bauder Kershner, copyright 1980. I can send you the recipe. You could make it veggie without the prosciutto, I’m sure.
    Recipe:

    stuffed mushrooms

    12 medium mushrooms
    5 Tablespoons olive oil
    2 Tablespoons finely minced onion
    1/4 cup finely minced prosciutto
    1/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    2 teaspoons chopped parsley
    1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
    salt and pepper
    chopped parsley
    grated parmesan

    Wash mushrooms. Remove stems; reserve for another use. Hollow out mushroom caps with teaspoon; drain well, pat dry.
    Place 2 tablespoons oil in bottom of small casserole. Dip outside of each mushroom cap in oil, swirling to coat.
    In small skillet heat 3 tablespoons oil. Add onion; saute until tender. Remove from heat. Add prosciutto, bread crumbs, cheese and seasonings; mix well. Fill mushrooms with bread-crumb mixture. Bake uncovered at 350 F for 30 minutes. Makes 2 to 4 servings, depending on how many other dishes are served.

    1. Thanks so much for writing out the recipe for me. This sounds so good (and it’s relatively healthy, too!). Had I seen this recipe before I planned our anniversary meal (tonight), I would have made this. Everything, minus the prosciutto, is readily available. Raj’s favorite food is Italian, so anything Italian in this household is a hit. Thanks again!

  5. Of course, you’re welcome! Yeah, it’s not the healthiest! Neither is my favorite lasagna recipe from that book; hence, I do not make it often! I’d be huge if I did! That or work out 5 hours a day. LOL. If you’d like me to send you that one, too, I’ll be happy too. I modify it when I make for my kids, lessen the dairy ingredients, and sometimes I like to add a bed of spinach in it, too.

  6. Hi Jen,
    I love reading about your adventures. I especially love the yoga poses. I tried the scorpion and almost broke my leg…I am going to work on that one. Aloha from Hilo!

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